Breast cancer research studies the factors that influence the cancer's development and looks at new ways to detect breast cancer and improve how it is diagnosed. Mammography remains the gold standard for screening, but thousands of women need to be screened in order to prevent one cancer death. Mammography may not be very efficient, and better screening tests are needed.
Breast center treatments and the use of new chemotherapy combinations also get a lot of attention. One of the most complex areas to understand is stem cell research, which looks at a cancer cell's microbiology and gene makeup to better predict which women will benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy. Examining cancer cells under a microscope with the goal of finding newer ways of looking at how the cells of a tumor are composed will help to predict the aggressive properties of the tumor, thus helping to guide a treatment course.
The more that is known about your breast cancer tumor, the better able you will be to choose your treatment of choice. Determining the properties that make up your breast cancer, such as estrogen/progesterone status and HER-2 status, will help tailor the treatment you get from your health care team (surgeons, radiologist, and oncologist).
This chapter will look at how two newer gene tests — Oncotype DX and MammaPrint — work, and how to request, understand, and interpret these tests and review their limitations. Also, it will include an explanation of what translational research is and how it can make more of an immediate contribution in breast cancer treatment as it swiftly translates research conclusions from lab to patient.
What kind of impact breast cancer treatment has on quality of life is also an area of study. For many years, scientists and helping professions have been studying the effects of treatment decisions and what impact those effects have on the quality of a patient's life. Research in this area can give insight to both medical professionals and individuals going through breast cancer treatment.
What impact our environment has on breast cancer and how it promotes it has also been an area of concern. The greening of America and the rest of the globe is of interest to everyone, not only those with the early onset of breast cancer. The commitment to research can help lead to breast cancer prevention. It relates to all levels of breast cancer — how cancer cells are made, how they spread to other organs, the drugs that interfere with cancer's growth, and the environment both in our bodies and the world in which we live. Preventing breast cancer may seem like a lofty goal, but it is one that has its roots in the beauty of humankind, and rests on the virtues of commitment to and love for ourselves, and our world.