The led to 440 deaths (Haddad 31). According to

The Use of Radiation/Chemotherapy on
Breast Cancer

            Breast cancer almost always takes
place in women, however, it can occur in men, too. In the United States, breast
cancer is pretty common. A woman has a 1 in 8 risk of being diagnosed with
breast cancer in their lifetime. According to Muna Al-Haddad, of all the breast
cancer cases, male breast cancer makes up about 1% of them. Because of later
detection, male breast cancer has a lower survival rate than female breast
cancer. Also, in 2009, about 1,910 new cases of male breast cancer were
diagnosed. This led to 440 deaths (Haddad 31). According to The New England Journal of Medicine,
“Breast cancer remains the most common nondermatologic cancer among women in
the United States”. It comes second to lung cancer as the most common cause of
cancer related death (Buchholz 63). However, because of technological advances,
the breast cancer diagnosis rate has generally decreased over the years. Even
though chemotherapy and radiation are both used as a treatment of cancer, they
both can be painful and cause harsh consequences. Radiation is a less invasive
treatment since it does not have as many side effects as chemotherapy and is
far less expensive.

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            Breast cancer is the rapid growth of
cells in the breast. Most often, the cells will create a lump (tumor) in the
breast. Usually, these lumps can be seen on an x-ray. If the tumor is cancerous
(malignant), the cells move into other tissues in the body. Not all breast
tumors are cancerous. It is possible to have a tumor that is benign, or
non-cancerous. There are a few treatment options for breast cancer. The two
most common are chemotherapy and radiation. Chemotherapy and radiation can
sometimes be combined depending on the types.

            Radiation therapy is the process of
using “high-energy” rays to damage cancer cells (“Radiation Therapy…”). It
is not a chemical and it does not take over surrounding healthy tissue. It only
targets the cells in the section of the body that is being treated. Sometimes,
after surgery, radiation is used to kill the remaining cells that have been
mutated (“Radiation Therapy…”). Radiation significantly reduces the
recurrence rate. In one study, “the 20-year rate of local recurrence was
reduced from 39% without radiation therapy to 14% with radiation therapy”
(Buchholz 64). Another study that was conducted showed that radiation had
decreased the 15-year risk of death by 5% (Buchholz 64).

            Although radiation has extreme
benefits, it comes with negative side effects. Nausea, dry skin, tenderness,
and hyperpigmentation are some of the most common. Patchell states that depending
on the amount of radiation over the course of treatment, the amount of
radiation in each dose, the length of treatment, and how susceptible the person
is, damage to the nervous system can be a more serious side effect (Patchell
1). Certain complications can occur because of radiation therapy including
injury to the lungs and heart. Moreover, secondary cancers can arise such as
lung cancer, sarcoma, and contralateral breast cancer (Buchholz 66).
Contralateral breast cancer is breast cancer that occurs on the opposite side
of where it originated.

            Another type of treatment is
chemotherapy. As stated by Bruce Chabner, chemotherapy is the process of using
cancer-killing drugs (Chabner). According to Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer, these can be given through your
veins or orally. The cancer-killing drugs travel through the bloodstream and to
the cancer cells. Not everyone that gets diagnosed with breast cancer will need
chemotherapy. There are a few different types of chemotherapy. The American
Cancer Society states that there are two different types of chemotherapy:
adjuvant and neo-adjuvant. Adjuvant chemotherapy takes place after surgery.
This is used to try and kill leftover cancer cells in the body. If adjuvant
chemotherapy isn’t used, and cancer cells get left in the body, they can create
new tumors in new places of the body. This type of chemo can lower breast
cancer coming back. The second type of chemotherapy is neo-adjuvant chemotherapy.
This takes place before surgery. Often this type of chemo is used to try to
downsize the tumor, so it can get expelled with less extensive surgery. An
advantage of giving chemo before the tumor is removed, is that doctors can get
a better understanding of how the cancer reacts to it. If there is no downsize
of the tumor, different drugs might need to be used. Neo-adjuvant chemo can
also decrease the risk of breast cancer coming back. If the breast cancer is
more progressive, which means it has spread outside the breast and underarm, doctors
can decide to use chemo as the main treatment (Chemotherapy for Breast

            Although chemotherapy has benefits,
it does come with some side effects. Usually, chemotherapy causes nausea,
vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, low blood cell counts that
can lead to anemia. Even though chemotherapy is meant for only the cancer
cells, it can cause other organ damage. It has been known to cause damage to
the lungs, heart, and liver as well as increasing some peoples risk of
developing leukemia years after treatment. Infertility in some women and men
has been known (Chabner).

            Anthracyclines are one of the main
active ingredients in chemotherapy that is used for breast cancer. According to
The Journal of Clinical Oncology, there
has been a decline in the use of anthracyclines and an alternative is on the
rise. Anthracyclines are on the decline because as a result of the results of a
study the University of Texas conducted. Although anthracyclines have positive
effects, it also has some negative effects. In the 1980s and 1990s, trials were
conducted that prove that anthracycline-based chemotherapy was associated with
a decline in the reoccurrence of breast cancer along with the increased
survival rate when compared to non-anthracycline chemotherapy. Since the rates
of survival increased and the rates of reoccurrence decreased, in the United
States, the use of adjuvant anthracyclines increased in the 1990s. Although the
use of anthracyclines seems to be very effective, there is some controversy on
the use. It seems to be the cause of cardiac toxicity. Cardiac dysfunction will
evolve in a slim amount of people that get treated with anthracyclines because
of treatment. This is rare however; congestive heart failure that is associated
with anthracyclines can increase overtime and cannot be reversed (Giordano).
Since this evidence has been found, more recently, the use of alternatives is

            Cancer can be a big financial burden
for people, especially since it is unexpected. Chemotherapy treatment for not
only breast cancer but cancer in general, can be very expensive. It depends on
the length of treatment and the type of treatment the doctor’s recommend.
According to HealthDay Reporter, Karen Pallarito, patients that have health
plans with a high deductible, this is especially true. For some, the average up
front cost is around $5,000 and for others, it was $11,000 or more, and this is
with insurance. Without insurance the cost’s can range up to $160,000 (Pallarito).
Certain drugs are more expensive than others. For chemotherapy, Herceptin is an
additional drug used. This drug’s cost ranges up to $50,000 (Pallarito). In
addition, radiation is very expensive. According to Thomas Buchholz, a six-week
course of radiation treatment can be anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000
without insurance. For patients with insurance, usually costs include doctor
visits, lab and prescription copays, along with 10%-50% of the
procedure/surgery costs. Most insurers cover radiation therapy however, certain
insurers may not cover certain types of radiation.

            One of my aunts was diagnosed with
breast cancer twice. First it was in the right breast and the second time in
the left. She went through chemotherapy and radiation both times. This took a
really hard toll on her and it took her many years to recover. She had all of
the side effects of chemotherapy including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite,
weight loss and fatigue. The only side effects she had from radiation were dry
skin and tenderness. It really drained her physically, mentally, and
emotionally. Another aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a
double mastectomy. She did not have to go through chemotherapy or radiation.
Currently, my cousin is going through chemotherapy for another type of cancer,
and the chemo is really difficult for him. He is usually an active person and
loves the outdoors but now that he is going through chemo, it is making him
feel fatigued and nauseas and it’s making him not want to do anything.

            Although chemotherapy and radiation,
the two main treatments of cancer, have a substantial amount of positive
effects, they both can result in pain and negative side effects. They can also
be expensive without the right health care. Radiation is a less invasive
treatment since it does not have as many side effects as chemotherapy and it is
far less expensive.