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What Are the Treatments for Precancer in the Breast?

by
author image Sylvie Tremblay, MSc
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.
What Are the Treatments for Precancer in the Breast?
Portrait of woman laughing. Photo Credit Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Overview

Breast cells undergo cycles of proliferation and maturation throughout the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy. These cycles of cell growth are governed by a number of molecular signals that guide the behavior of the cells. When breast cells develop genetic mutations, they begin to proliferate regardless of external signaling and begin to form of a tumor. Precancerous breast tumors contain cells that proliferate out of control, but have not yet developed the ability to invade into other tissues--the hallmark of a cancerous tumor. Patients with precancerous breast tumors have a number of treatment options to effectively treat their tumor.

Lumpectomy

One potential treatment for a precancerous breast tumor is a lumpectomy, which is a surgery to remove the precancerous lesion. A lumpectomy is a breast-conserving surgery and is less invasive than other types of breast tumor surgeries. Doctors performing a lumpectomy make an incision in the breast and expose the precancerous tumor. The surgeon then surgically removes the lesion, along with a small amount of tissue surrounding the tumor, in an effort to remove any remaining cancer cells. A lumpectomy can effectively remove precancerous tumors with well-defined borders growing in a localized region of the breast. In some cases, patients with precancerous breast tumors may require additional cancer treatment or surgery if a lumpectomy proves unsuccessful.

Mastectomy

In some cases, a patient with a precancerous breast tumor may require more aggressive tumor treatment, such as a mastectomy. A mastectomy is a breast-removal surgery in which the surgeon removes the entire breast tissue, including the tumor, along with the overlying breast skin, nipple and underlying chest muscles. This course of treatment may prove effective in reducing the risk of developing breast cancer from the precancerous tumor, according to Standford Medicine Cancer Center. Women with a family history of breast cancer, or women with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, may undergo a mastectomy to remove a precancerous lesion to prevent the development of breast cancer.

Hormonal Therapy

Some forms of precancerous breast tumors may respond to hormone-based therapies, according to BreastCancer.org. Breast cells contain hormone receptors that sense the presence of hormones in the bloodstream and respond to specific hormones by proliferating. When breast tumor cells contain these receptors, the presence of hormones like estrogen promotes tumor cell growth and can promote the development of cancer. Hormone-based therapies seek to prevent the tumor cells from sensing estrogen, stopping the proliferative signaling and stopping tumor growth. Patients receiving hormone therapy must first undergo testing to assess whether their tumor cells contain hormone receptors, as hormone therapies treat only hormone receptor-positive tumors.

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