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What are your treatment options for breast cancer?

For more than 30 years, October has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month around the globe, with the aim of raising awareness about the impact of breast cancer in women. Women will don the iconic pink ribbon during this annual worldwide campaign, showing solidarity, and raising funds and awareness for breast cancer research and treatment, which can give those suffering from the disease and their families renewed hope.

Despite advancements in healthcare technology and increasing awareness, breast cancer remains the number one killer of Thai women, with about 14 deaths a day. In this article from Pacific Prime Thailand, we are going to look at the treatment options of breast cancer in the Land of Smiles.

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The current situation in Thailand

According to a report published by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the number of breast cancer patients has been on the rise regularly over the past 20 years, with more than 120,000 new cases diagnosed every year, and a high mortality rate of about 60,000.

While the Universal Coverage Scheme in Thailand has been lauded as one of the most successful public healthcare models in the world, research has shown that the five-year survival rates of breast cancer in developing countries such as Thailand and Malaysia are far behind their counterparts in more highly developed countries.

Prevention is still the key

As you’re well aware, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to breast cancer. This is because early stage breast cancer has a higher cure rate and a shorter recovery time than later stage breast cancer. Therefore, it is important for women to conduct a self-examination of their breasts regularly to check for abnormal lumps, and to not be shy about consulting their doctor.

Every October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, hospitals and clinics provide special promotion for mammography screenings and consultations, so it’s probably the best time of the year to have a check-up.

Besides testing, lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, weight, stress, and environmental toxins also play crucial roles in hormone balance and breast cancer risk. Therefore, you should, by all means, improve these aspects in your daily life. For example, maintaining a healthy weight is important since many studies have indicated that obesity, or more generally a high BMI, is a risk factor closely associated with breast cancer incidence.

Different stages of breast cancer

Your treatment options largely depend on the stage of your breast cancer. Below is a brief overview of the different stages.

Stage 0: The tumor is limited to the inside of the milk duct and is non-invasive cancer.

Stage 1: The tumor is still relatively small and either has not spread to the lymph nodes or has only a tiny area of cancer spread in the sentinel lymph node.

Stage 2: The tumor has spread to a few nearby lymph nodes.

Stage 3: The tumors are larger or are growing into nearby tissue (e.g. the skin over the breast or the muscle underneath), or have spread to many nearby lymph nodes.

Stage 4: The tumors have spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body.

What are your treatment options?

Breast conserving surgery

Also known as lumpectomy, this form of surgery only removes the tumor and a small amount of normal tissue surrounding the tumor.

Axillary (underarm) lymph node removal

Through this surgery, surgeons will inject a dye into the tissue near the tumor to locate the position of the sentinel lymph nodes (the first lymph nodes cancer cells are most likely to spread to) to check for cancer. The rationale behind this surgery is to remove and examine only the lymph node most susceptible to breast cancer instead of removing all of them.

However, in order to qualify for these less invasive surgeries, the tumor has to be in the early stages and relatively small in size. If the tumor has spread to other parts of the body, physicians may recommend additional therapies in combination with surgery to maximize the cure rate of the patients.

Chemotherapy

Also known as “chemo”, this treatment uses chemotherapy medicine to weaken and destroy cancer cells in the body, including cells at the original cancer site, and any cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of the body. These medicines are often prescribed to shrink tumor size before surgery, and are usually used when cancer has reached stage 3 or beyond.

Hormonal Therapy

Once physicians have found a hormone-receptor-positive breast tumor, they will consider hormonal therapy in order to either reduce or block estrogen, as it could stimulate cancer cell growth.

Radiation Therapy

Mostly for patients with cancer that has spread to regional lymph nodes only, this approach is a highly targeted way to destroy cancer cells in the breast that may stick around after surgery. Its side effects are limited to the treated area only.

Mastectomy

This form of surgery removes all breast tissue and lymph nodes. However, nowadays this surgery has become more refined, and is less intrusive than it used to be. The muscles under the breast are no longer removed, and patients with their breasts removed can use silicone implants for breast reconstruction.

Getting insurance coverage for breast cancer

While government hospitals do offer breast cancer treatment, Thai women can only receive free care at the hospital where they are registered, which could be far from their home or workplace. Therefore, it might be a great option to secure an international health insurance plan, which covers the most common forms of breast cancer treatment. Some plans even include coverage for regular check-ups.

With over 18 years of experience and offices in countries across the globe, Pacific Prime Thailand specializes in matching clients with the plans they need. Contact us today for any questions pertaining to insurance, a free quote, and a plan comparison!

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anthony

Content Creator at Pacific Prime Thailand
Anthony Chan is a content writer at Pacific Prime. He’s responsible for writing, translating, and editing articles, guides, infographics, leaflets, as well as other resources for Pacific Prime and Kwiksure.

When he’s not working, he’s usually on the hunt for great restaurants, playing badminton, and writing screenplays.