Breast cancer
Pin-pointing the cancer's location and advances in immunotherapy are some of the latest treatment procedures. Photo for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Abu Dhabi: New technologies are helping make breast cancer a far more treatable disease, both in the UAE and globally, so women should not hesitate to get themselves screened, a leading cancer specialist has said.

On the occasion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr Taghreed Al Mahameed, breast cancer specialist and a general surgery consultant at Al Zahra Hospital, urged residents to be proactive about their breast health, especially as cancer diagnosed before symptoms appear is more likely to be treated successfully. Lifestyle changes can also decrease the risk of developing breast cancer, including maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, avoiding alcohol, and quitting smoking, she added.

Latest tech

Dr Taghreed Al Mahameed

“For instance, a new technology called radar reflector can now be implanted into a tumour so that surgeons can detect this reflector during surgery to precisely pinpoint the non-palpable lump or cancer," said Dr Al Mahameed.

“The Magtrace is a new device that uses safe magnetic fields to locate accurately the sentinel lymph node in the axilla to determine the spread of the cancer, and can help locate a non-palpable lump. This device eliminates the need for a radioactive nuclear injection, which has typically been to identify the first lymph node to which the cancer spreads. It can be injected when it is convenient to the surgeon and patient, from 20 minutes ahead of surgery up to 30 days in advance. These new techniques have a very good cosmetic outcome, being more precise in locating the tumour with no compromise to the cancer surgery,” she explained.

Another advance is immunotherapy, which can help improve outcomes by 60 per cent for women with triple negative breast cancer, an especially aggressive form of the disease.

“Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) refers to the fact that the cancer cells don’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors, and also don’t make any or too much of the protein called HER2. These cancers tend to be more common in women younger than 40 years old. Immunotherapy drugs are added during chemotherapy to make treatment more effective for patients with TNBC,” Dr Al Mahameed said.

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Targeted therapies

The doctor said there are also targeted cancer therapies that pose less risks to healthy cells.

“Targeted cancer therapies are treatments that target specific characteristics of cancer cells, such as the protein that allows the cancer to grow in a rapid and abnormal way. Targeted therapies are generally less likely than chemotherapy to harm normal, healthy cells. Some targeted therapies are antibodies that work like the antibodies made naturally by our immune systems,” Dr Al Mahameed said.

In addition, a simple subcutaneous injection can help women fighting HER2-positive breast cancer, a cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. In the past, these patients would have gad to get an infusion every three weeks for a year, but this has been reduced to one injection.

“I advise and urge all women to make their breast health a priority and to get themselves screened. Screening takes minutes to perform, but really could save your life,” the doctor advised.