Breast Cancer: Treatment Choices

Breast Cancer: Treatment Choices

There are various treatment choices
for breast cancer. Which may work best for you? It depends on several factors. These
include: 

  • Type, size, and location of the
    tumor in your breast

  • Results of tests, such as
    hormone receptor and HER2 tests

  • If and how far the cancer has
    spread (stage)

  • Your age, overall health,
    menopause status, and breast size

  • Your personal needs and
    preferences

Learning about your treatment
options 

You may have questions and concerns
about your treatment options. You may also want to know how you’ll feel and function
after treatment, and if you’ll have to change your normal activities.

Your healthcare provider is the
best person to answer your questions. He or she can tell you what your treatment choices
are, how successful they’re expected to be, and what the risks and side effects are.
Your healthcare provider may advise a specific treatment. Or he or she may offer more
than 1 and ask you to decide which you’d like to use. It can be hard to make this
decision. It is important to take the time you need to make the best decision for
you.

Types of treatment for breast
cancer

There are 2 main kinds of treatment
for breast cancer: 

  • Local treatments. These remove, destroy, or control
    cancer cells in 1 area of the body. Surgery and radiation are local
    treatments.

  • Systemic treatments. These destroy or control cancer
    cells throughout the whole body. Chemotherapy and hormone therapy are systemic
    treatments.

Treatments are often used together,
most often with some type of breast surgery. This may be called combination therapy.
Treatment given before surgery to help shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove
is
called neoadjuvant treatment. Treatment used after surgery to kill any hidden cancer
cells that may be left in the breast is called adjuvant treatment. Even if there is
no
sign of cancer, your healthcare team may still suggest adjuvant treatment to help
lower
the risk that cancer may come back or spread.

Types of treatment for breast cancer

  • Surgery. Surgery is done to remove the tumor from your
    breast. Surgery is the most common way to treat breast cancer. In some cases, only
    the tumor is removed, and the rest of the breast is left intact. In other cases,
    the entire breast is removed. Your surgeon may also use surgery to see if the
    cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under your arm. Knowing if the cancer has
    spread can help you and your healthcare team make decisions about other types of
    treatment you may need after surgery. After a breast is removed, surgery may be
    used to reconstruct a breast. This can be done with either your own tissue or an
    implant.

  • Radiation therapy. This type of therapy uses
    high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. This treatment can be used to shrink a
    tumor before surgery. Or it may be used after surgery to kill cancer cells that
    may remain in the breast or chest area. Radiation may also be used to treat tumors
    in other areas of the body.

  • Chemotherapy. This treatment uses powerful medicines
    to kill cancer cells all through the body. It may be used to shrink a tumor before
    surgery. Or it may be used to kill any cancer cells that remain after local
    treatments. It’s often used along with hormone therapy. Chemotherapy may also
    treat tumors that have grown in other places in the body. Breast cancer that has
    spread is usually treated with chemotherapy.

  • Hormone therapy. This treatment stops the growth of
    cancer cells that rely on certain hormones. It can be delivered in 2 ways. One way
    to get hormone therapy is with medicines, such as tamoxifen. Another way is by
    removing the ovaries, which make hormones. Hormone therapy may be used after
    surgery to decrease the chance of breast cancer coming back, or a new cancer
    growing. It can also be used to treat cancer that has spread. It’s sometimes used
    with chemotherapy.

  • Targeted therapy. This treatment uses medicines that
    target the changes in a cancer cell that make a tumor grow and spread.
    These medicines either destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells. The medicines
    tend to have fewer side effects that are less severe. The medicine trastuzumab may
    be used for some types of breast cancer. It targets the protein HER-2.  

  • Immunotherapy. This treatment uses
    the body’s own immune system to help it recognize and attack cancer cells. Some types
    of breast cancer can be treated with immunotherapy. The medicine atezolizumab may
    be
    used in the treatment of advanced triple-negative breast cancer.

Clinical trials for new
treatments 

Research is ongoing to find more
ways to treat breast cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Talk
with
your healthcare provider to find out if there are any clinical trials you should
consider.

Talking with your healthcare
providers 

At first, thinking about treatment
options may seem overwhelming. Talk with your doctors, nurses, and loved ones. Make
a
list of questions. Consider the benefits and possible side effects of each option.
Discuss your concerns with your healthcare providers before making a decision.