Research on Breast Cancer
In 2018 alone, over 600,000 women died from breast cancer which continues to negatively impact the lives of over 2 million women every year, globally.
That being the case, a lot of research has gone into finding better ways to diagnose and treat this cancer, and they have not disappointed bearing in mind that early detection of breast cancer decreases rate for women with breast cancer.
What milestones have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer?
Apart from the commonly known diagnosis methods of breast cancer; mammogram and breast ultrasound, there are new improved imaging tests being used in breast cancer diagnosis. These include:
- Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI): This method involves injecting a tracer (slightly radioactive drug) into the vein which attaches itself to any breast cancer cells. A special camera is then used to view the tracer in any breast cells. This test is used with mammograms especially for women with dense breasts or to look at breast problems like lumps.
- Optical Imaging: This test involves passing light into the breast and to measure the amount of light that comes back or passes through the tissue. The use of this test with MRIs and 3D mammograms is still being studied to help in breast cancer diagnosis.
- Electrical Impedance Imaging (EIT): Since breast cancer cells conduct electricity differently than normal cells, this test looks at that difference by passing a bit of electric current through the breast and looking for changes with small electrodes on the skin.
Positron emission mammography (PEM): In this scan, sugar is attached to a radioactive particle to look for cancer cells which can help to find small groups of the cancer cells.
These cancers may not cause signs in the early stages but as they progress, the followings signs and symptoms may occur:
- Bone-directed treatments: This is used for breast cancer that can spread to the bones. It involves the use of drugs that can prevent the spread of breast cancer or treat it. These drugs include zoledronic acid (zometa) and pamidronate (Aredia) which strengthen the bones and can lower the risk of fractures in them that have been weakened by breast cancer that has spread.
- Targeted Therapy: Drugs like Lapatinib, Pertuzumab and Neratinib are used to target cells that make too much protein HER2 which is found in people with breast cancer.
- Nanotechnology: Devices that use nanotechnology can make cancer diagnosis possible by looking for cancer signs in the blood or other bodily fluids. This can also involve the use of very tiny objects in cancer detection and treatment. The use of these particles together with chemotherapy to target cancer cells directly without causing harm to the healthy tissue around the cancer cells can make the drugs more effective and cause fewer side effects.
As research continues on new drugs and therapies to be used in cancer treatment, we remain hopeful that more effective, less toxic treatments that have fewer side effects will be discovered. Therefore, more support for such research is important by governments and other stakeholders such as medical organisations as well as individuals; in terms of financial help and taking part in the trials.
If this is done, the world will be at a better place in regard to early cancer detection and effective treatment.