Why It's Best to Have a Individualized Breast Cancer Treatment Plan
March 08, 2018
Every woman with breast cancer is unique and needs an individualized treatment plan. Doctors consider age, overall health and other factors to create a customized plan to treat her cancer and preserve her health. In particular, young, elderly and pregnant women require highly customized care.
Breast Cancer and Pregnancy
If you are pregnant and have been diagnosed, your obstetric care team will collaborate fully with your oncology team to design a treatment plan that best controls the breast cancer while protecting your unborn child. The treatment plan will be determined by:
- Size and location of the tumor
- How far along you are in the pregnancy
- Your overall health
Chemotherapy is not given during the first three months of pregnancy because most of the baby’s internal organs develop during this time. However, it is safe for pregnant women in the second or third trimester. Because cancer is often discovered later in pregnancy, chemotherapy is often the first line of treatment.
Surgery for breast cancer is also generally safe for mother and baby during pregnancy, preferably after the first trimester. The entire affected breast may be removed or just the tumor. Your doctors will decide which anesthesia drugs and surgical procedure is safest for you and the baby.
Other breast cancer treatments, such as hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy are more likely to harm the baby and are not usually given during pregnancy.
In most cases, however, if chemo and/or surgery is completed during the pregnancy, these therapies can be given after delivery without delay. Sometimes, doctors may choose to induce birth a few weeks early so these treatments may be started to help lower the risk of the cancer coming back.
Breast Cancer in Adolescents and Young Adult Women
Young women between the ages of 15 and 30 are part of a unique patient population we call AYAs, which stands for adolescents and young adults. Because they are so young, the bodies of AYAs are constantly changing, physically and hormonally, which can affect how cancer develops and how it responds to various treatments. Breast cancer in young women is often more aggressive and requires a robust treatment plan.
Researchers have found that pediatric cancer treatment protocols are often more successful in AYAs and can lead to a significant increase in survival rates. Pediatric regimens may be more aggressive because younger bodies are generally healthier and better able to tolerate intense therapies.
At University Hospitals, AYA patients may choose to be seen at either UH Seidman Cancer Center or the Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Institute at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.
Even if they choose UH Seidman Cancer Center as their location for care, their cancer team will include specialists from Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital to ensure the most effective clinical protocols are followed. And, our AYA patient navigator will consult with each young woman to discuss all aspects of their care including what steps can be taken before treatments begin to preserve their ability to have children.
Breast Cancer in Older Adults
Many patients with breast cancer are older than 65, putting them at higher risk for dementia, depression and other complex medical issues.
University Hospitals offers a unique approach to assessing seniors for special issues that may need consideration during treatment. Based on this assessment, their breast cancer treatment plan is adjusted accordingly and may include more frequent follow-up care.
At University Hospitals, patients at all ages and stages of life benefit from the personalized care that is our hallmark. This compassionate approach coupled with our arsenal of cancer-fighting tools – the most extensive in the region – ensures that patients can live life to the fullest before during and after treatment.