Dr. Dennis Citrin: There are three basic treatments for the cancer patient: surgery, radiation, and then medical treatments. The latest advances in treating breast cancer, let's take them one by one.
In terms of surgery, I remember the battle days when the only surgical option for a patient was a mastectomy, that’s far from the case now. As a whole there's a developing new specialty called oncoplastic surgery where, and we’re very blessed here because we have a very gifted surgeon who is able to among other surgeons, but basically we’re able to limit the amount of surgery required. So, what’s called breast conserving surgery or where only part of the breast containing the tumor has to be removed. It’s psychologically, functionally, cosmetically, much better for the patient and the results are just as good in terms of cure rates so that’s a major advance, the recognition of oncoplastic surgery.
Also, the we no longer have to remove a large number of lymph nodes in many patients because we use a technique called sentinel node mapping and sentinel node sampling, so we’re able to do more limited surgery not only on the breast but also on the armpit.
In terms of radiation there, some of the new advances include partial breast irradiation where we’re able to radiate rather than give radiation over an extended period of time. It is limited to only a week, and the cosmetic results are excellent.
In terms of what I do, in terms of medical oncology one of the major advances in new drug treatments has been the recognition that no two patients and no two cancers are the same, and so we’re now targeting specific drug treatments to match the specific characteristics of the cancer.