Breast Cancer Treatment in Korea

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer occurs when cells in the area begin to grow uncontrollably, leading to the formation of a tumor. In some cases, the tumor can be detected by palpation, but in most cases, only through examinations it is possible to detect abnormalities.

According to 2017 statistics, breast cancer is one of the 5 most common types of cancer in the world; in Korea, USA, the CIS region and others ranks 1st among women.

The number of cases is increasing every year, but the statistics on 5-year survival in Korea also increased from 79.2% in 1995 to 93.2% in 2017.

Symptoms of breast cancer

  • Palpation of the tumor (bump)
  • Swelling, redness, chest heat
  • Breast look and size modification
  • Pain, itching, peeling in the nipple area
  • Changes in the nipple area (color, texture)

These symptoms cannot always easily detected and there is a chance to miss an early stage detection. Therefore, it is important to undergo a full checkup once every 1-2 years and a self-examination once a month. Important: Early detection and proper treatment, survival rate is above 90%!

Risk group for breast cancer:

  • Women over the age of 50;
  • Breast oncology in blood relatives (mother, sisters), pelvic organ oncology (ovaries, uterus, intestines);
  • Early menstruation (up to 12 years-old), late menopause (after 55);
  • Women without children or those who first gave birth after 30;
  • Long-term use of hormonal drugs;
  • Smoking, obesity, alcohol, etc.

Molecular subtypes of breast cancer

SubtypeEstrogen Receptors (ER)Progesterone receptors (PR)HER2 proteinFrequency of cases
Luminal A++30~45%
Luminal B+++10~20%
HER-2 Positive+5~15%
Three times negative15~20%

The histological conclusion includes the following parameters that determine the direction of treatment:

Hormonal receptors for estrogen and progesterone:

Hormones have a large and important effect on our body, regulate the work of organs, promote cell growth. Even a small failure in hormones can lead to some changes. The hormones are adopted with the help of hormonal receptors, which are on the surface of cells and “read” information when it’s attached to the hormone. Thus, after the “transmission” of information, the cells begin to change. If the onco-cell contains receptors for estrogen and progesterone, these hormones, attaching to the receptors, send a signal to growth cancer cells, which leads to uncontrolled and rapid development.

In this case, if the tumor is hormone-dependent (ER, PR), hormone therapy is connected to the treatment, which slows down or even stops the growth of the tumor. These tumors respond well to hormone therapy.

HER2 (epidermal growth factor receptor, type 2) is a protein that is found on the surface of cells and is involved in their growth, reproduction and recovery. But sometimes the gene fails and the amount of protein on the surface of the cell increases, which also leads to uncontrolled growth of cancer cells.

If the tumor is HER2-positive,” then targeted therapy is attached to the treatment, which is aimed at blocking cell growth signals. This type of tumor responds well to targeted therapy.

When histology results go negative to hormone receptors and HER2, then the diagnosis goes into triple negative breast cancer. This type of cancer is not treatable with hormonal drugs and drugs aimed at the protein HER2 (targeted therapy). Thus, this type of breast cancer is considered more aggressive, with worse estimation and frequent relapses compared to other types of cancer. But do not give up, as medicine does not stand still. New immunotherapy drugs are constantly developed and some are useful to treat early stages of triple negative breast cancer. In this case, it is important to consult an experienced specialist who will be able to prescribe the right treatment and guide the patient.

Hospitals for the treatment of breast cancer in Korea

Medical Avenue has extensive experience with various hospitals in Korea (first-level hospitals – Samsung Medical Center, Severance Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital, Seoul National University Hospital; second-level hospitals – Ajou University Hospital, Cha Ilsan, etc.). The experience of our patients is important to us, so our coordinators conduct a thorough assessment of the work of all: the hospitals, doctors and medical staff. The accumulated experience allows to make recommendations individually, according to the diagnosis and wishes of patients.

Some hospitals in Korea use experimental NK (natural killers) cell therapy in the treatment of cancer. This method uses your own NK cells. Cell collection occurs through a usual blood collection, then in the lab doctors multiply millions of times and injected back to the patient intravenously. This method helps to use your own immune system in the fight against cancer. Suitable for both patients with initial stage and terminal stage of cancer. For more information, please contact our experts for advice.

Information about cancer treatment in South Korea
Information about cancer treatment in Korea

Preliminary medical checkup plan in Korea for breast cancer

Since the breast is located in close proximity to vital organs, a detailed examination is carried out to determine the stage of disease spread and the presence of metastasis.

Breast ultrasound and mammography
MRI of the breasts
CT of chest and abdominal organs
Blood, urine test
PET-CT (if necessary)
Bone scintography (if necessary)
Cost: $3,000
Biopsy or revision of histological drugsBiopsy cost: from $3002
Cost of histological research: $300-$600$3
Genetic test to determine the mutation of the gene BRCA1, BRCA2 (It is recommended to do a test if among the next of kin there were more than 1 case of breast, ovarian cancer, if the patient is less than 40 years old, etc. Gene mutation increases the risk of breast cancer by 70-85%, ovarian cancer by 22-44%, in addition to this bowel cancer, pancreas, uterus, bile ducts. Children are also recommended to be screened. To reduce the risk of cancer, prescribe medications or perform special procedures.)Cost: about $3,000-$5,000$4

1 Cost according to surveys is higher. If there are comorbidities, the list of surveys and the cost may change. 2 The cost will depend on the biopsy method. 3 Depending on the levels of the study, the cost may increase. 4 The cost will depend on the method and type of genetic test.

Preliminary treatment plans in Korea for breast cancer

  • Surgery: There are many types of operation, partial and complete are distinguished, with / without removal of lymph nodes, with / without breast reconstruction, etc. Since 2016, surgeries using the “Sa Vinci” robot have been widely common. This operation is performed through one single small incision, which helps quick recovery and provides the best aesthetic effect. The Cost: $ 11,000 ~ $ 20,0001
  • Chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy. The cost: $ 500 ~ $ 5,000 for 1 course2
  • Radiotherapy3
  • Hormone therapy (depending on the diagnosis) 3

1 The cost may change according to the type of surgery and individual characteristics of the treatment. 2 The protocol of chemotherapy is prescribed by the oncologist based on the results of all examinations. The cost depends on the assigned protocol. When prescribing immunotherapy, the cost may increase. 3 The cost of radiation and hormone therapy will depend on the number of courses, drugs and dosage.

Approximate screening and treatment schedule in Korea for breast cancer

  • 1st day: consultation with the professor, appointment of examinations
  • 2nd day: examinations
  • On the 8-9 day: secondary consultation, examinations results
  • Surgery: scheduled, hospitalization for 3-5 days
  • Discharge after 3-5 days, then outpatient appointment on the results of a biopsy and flight home. 1

1 The stay may change depending on the patient’s condition, the type of surgery and the schedule of the ward in which the treatment will take place.

Advice from a treatment coordinator in Korea

  1. Bring with you special compression underwear, which is recommended to be worn after a mastectomy.
  2. Take with you all the medicines you take on a permanent basis (for the caregiver and the patient), black tea, porridge, cereals are also good.

Reviews of patients treated for breast cancer in Korea

Отзывы Лечение рака молочной железы в Корее 2

Thank you very much to the Medical Avenue team. Thank you for your professionalism, sincerity, care and participation!
We have known you for almost 3 years and we have become good friends !!!
Behind we have a long examination, waiting for the results, 2 surgeries, exhausting treatment between surgeries, etc. Thanks to you, everything is behind !!!
Thanks that now, every time I visit the Samsung clinic, the doctors tell me that everything is fine with you. 🙏
I wish you success, Medical Avenue !!!
I wish doctors to tell each of your patients: “you are doing well !!!”

Z. L.

Отзывы Лечение рака молочной железы в Корее

At the end of August 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Without thinking for a long time, my husband and I immediately decided to go to Korea. Through friends we got in touch with Kate from Medical Avenue. All issues were resolved quickly. At the airport we were met by the coordinator Alexandra, who helped with the check-in at the hotel. Leaving all our belongings at the hotel, we went to Samsung Hospital for a consultation. This hospital inspired me confidence and tranquility from the very first moment, as soon as you cross the threshold. The first appointment was with the breast oncologist surgeon Professor Kim. I liked him, he had good disposition and was friendly. After examining and listening to me, he appointed examinations, which we went through quickly.
Treatment was prescribed: 6 courses of chemotherapy, partial organ-preserving surgery, as the professor promised that he would do everything possible to save the breast, and he kept his promise. There was also radiation therapy. In the hospital, everyone worked well, harmoniously, calm staff, but at the same time they quickly complete their tasks and, thus, I was cured of stage 3 breast cancer.
I would like to thank the Medical Avenue team for the excellent organization of examinations and treatment. You do not just do your job, you approach each client with a soul, respond to all requests and questions, even not related to treatment. Kate, thank you so much! You have an excellent professional team, special thanks to Olga, Elina, Marina, Sasha, for the entire time of your stay you have become dear to me. And special thanks to Professor Kim for the high professionalism. Thank you so much for your work! You are professionals in your field. Good luck to you! We often recommend you to our friends and acquaintances. Thank you!

A. M.

This post is also available in: Русский (Russian)

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