Breast Cancer Treatment With Chemotherapy

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 29 March 2021

Breast Cancer Treatment With Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment that involves medications to destroy cancer cells. It plays three main roles in the management of breast cancer:

  1. To stop the recurrence of cancer following treatment and radiation. Adjuvant treatment is the term for chemotherapy used in this manner.
  2. To make it possible to remove a tumour by reducing it before surgery. Neo-adjuvant therapy is the name for this method of procedure.
  3. To remove cancer cells that have spread across the body.

You and your doctor will determine when to begin chemotherapy, which medications to use, and when to take them on a regular basis. Ask about the medication's potential adverse effects.


Common Chemotherapy Drugs for Breast Cancer

The below are some of the chemotherapy medications used to treat early breast cancer:

  • Anthracyclines: Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and epirubicin (Ellence) are two medicines in this class.
  • Taxanes: Docetaxel (Taxotere) and paclitaxel (Taxol) are two medications of this class.

These medications are often used with carboplatin, cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), and fluorouracil (5-FU) to treat cancer.

The following drugs are used to treat advanced breast cancer:

  • Albumin-bound paclitaxel (nab-paclitaxel or Abraxane)
  • Capecitabine (Xeloda)
  • Eribulin (Halaven)
  • Gemcitabine (Gemzar)
  • Ixabepilone (Ixempra)
  • Liposomal doxorubicin (Doxil)
  • Mitoxantrone
  • Platinum (carboplatin, cisplatin)
  • Vinorelbine (Navelbine)


Choosing a Chemotherapy Combination

Your doctor would most certainly explore the prospect of combining multiple chemo medications with you. They may use abbreviations for their names to refer to them. The following are a few of the most common:

  • AC: Adriamycin and Cytoxan
  • AT: Adriamycin and Taxotere
  • CMF: Cytoxan, methotrexate, and fluorouracil
  • FAC: Fluorouracil, Adriamycin, and Cytoxan
  • CAF: Cytoxan, Adriamycin, and fluorouracil

(FAC and CAF use the same medicines but in different doses and frequencies)

Treatment Plan for Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

Chemotherapy is provided as a pill or injected into a vein on a daily, weekly, or every 2-4 weeks basis. You can receive a single medication or a mixture of medicines. Your treatment plan is customised to your individual requirements.

If the veins are difficult to identify, a catheter can be implanted into a large vein. These instruments, which include an opening to the skin or a port under the skin, are implanted by a surgeon or radiologist and enable chemotherapy drugs to be administered. They may also be used to administer fluids or draw blood. Your catheter will be replaced after your chemotherapy is done.


Monitoring Your Treatment

Your doctor will check you on a daily basis to determine how your body is responding to the chemotherapy. They'll take blood samples on a daily basis to assess how many blood cells you have. A blood transfusion may be needed if you have an inadequate amount of red blood cells. An injection can be provided if the white blood cell count is too low. A platelet infusion could be needed if your platelets, which clot blood, are insufficient. It's possible that the chemotherapy will be delayed before your blood cells and platelets have recovered.

Imaging tests can be used to assess how effectively the chemotherapy is working.

Short-Term Side Effects of Breast Cancer Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment that destroys cancer cells. However, it causes side effects by killing some healthy cells. You can feel stronger with the help of medicine. It's necessary to tell the doctor if you have some negative side effects, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Mouth soreness
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Premature menopause. If you are planning to have children, tell your doctor before starting chemotherapy.
  • Lowered resistance to infections
  • Increased bleeding. If the platelet count is very low, little red spots may appear on your body. You may bruise or bleed easily.

Long-Term Side Effects of Breast Cancer Chemotherapy

Heart problems:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat

Lung damage:

  • Your lungs aren't as effective as they once were.
  • The lining of the lungs thickens.
  • The lungs get inflamed.
  • You're having difficulty breathing.

Hormone issues:

  • Hot flashes
  • Lower libido
  • Mood swings
  • Bladder control issues
  • Fewer or no periods
  • Earlier menopause

Bone, joint, and soft tissue damage:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Joint pain
  • Bone pain

Brain and nervous system issues:

  • Hearing loss
    Damage to brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves

Thinking difficulties:

  • Trouble learning
  • Memory issues
  • Difficulty paying attention

Oral health issues:

It's possible that your tooth enamel can be damaged.

Digestive issues:

Difficulty digesting foods like normal.

Secondary cancers:

Chemotherapy may damage bone marrow stem cells, contributing to cancers such as acute leukaemia and myelodysplasia.


Working During Chemo Treatment

Most patients are likely to continue functioning when doing chemotherapy. So that appointments don't mess with your work week, ask the doctor to schedule them later in the day or just before the weekend. If you're experiencing adverse effects, you might need to change your job hours.


Cancer Emergency Signs to Look Out For

Your doctor and chemotherapy nurse can explain what conditions are called emergencies. However, if you see any of the following warning signs, contact your doctor right away:f to c

  • A temperature is greater than 37.5C.
  • Fever and chills, if any. Go to the emergency department if you can't find your doctor.
  • New mouth sores or patches, a swollen tongue, or bleeding gums.
  • A throat that is dry, burning, scratchy, or swollen.
  • A mucus-producing cough.
  • Urinating more often, itching after urinating, or seeing blood in your urine.
  • Heartburn, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhoea that persists more than two or three days.
  • Stools with blood in it


Referenced on 29.3.2021

  1. The Cleveland Clinic.
  2. Taussig Cancer Center.
  3. Physicians' Desk Reference.
  4. American Cancer Society: “Targeted therapy for breast cancer,” “Chemotherapy for breast cancer,” “Central Venous Catheters.”
  5. National Cancer Institute.
  6. “Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects,” “Blood Cell Counts,” “Choosing a Chemotherapy Combination.”
  7. “Long-Term Side Effects of Cancer Treatment,” “What to Expect When Having Chemotherapy.”
  8. Mayo Clinic: “Chemotherapy for breast cancer.”
  9. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “After Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer.”

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