Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 26 March 2021
Table of contents
Breast Cancer Treatment
Treatments for breast cancer are changing all the time, and women already have more choices than ever before. With so many options, it’s a good idea to learn what you can about the ones that can most benefit you.
The two major targets in all breast cancer trials are:
- To rid your body of as much of the cancer as possible
- To keep the disease from coming back
How Do I Know Which Breast Cancer Treatment to Choose?
Before recommending a treatment for you, the doctor will consider the following factors:
- The type of breast cancer you’ve been diagnosed with
- The size of the tumour and the extent to which the cancer has spread across the body are referred to as the stage of the cancer.
- If the tumour has HER2 protein, hormone, or progesterone receptors, or other identifying characteristics.
Your age, whether or not you’ve been through menopause, any other health problems you might have, and your personal preferences all weigh into this choice.
What Are the Types of Breast Cancer Treatment?
Some treatments operate by removing or destroying the cancer from the breast and surrounding tissues, such as lymph nodes. There are some of them:
- Surgery. The most common first step is to eliminate the tumour. A lumpectomy is a procedure that extracts only the cancerous portion of the breast. It’s also recognised as breast-conserving surgery. During a mastectomy, the whole breast is removed. Mastectomies and lumpectomies come in a number of forms.
- Radiation therapy. High-energy waves are used to destroy cancer cells in this treatment. Radiation is provided to the majority of women under the age of 70 who have a lumpectomy. If the disease has spread, doctors can even prescribe this procedure. It aids in the destruction of any cancer cells that the surgeon has been unable to remove. Radiation can come from a machine outside of your body, or it may come from tiny seeds embedded in your breast where the tumour was.
Other treatments destroy or control cancer cells all over your body:
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses medications to destroy cancer cells. The drugs should be administered orally or intravenously. It’s offered to most patients following treatment to destroy any cancer cells that exist. Doctors can also administer it prior to surgery to help shrink tumours. Chemotherapy is effective against tumours, but it may also affect healthy cells.
- Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy is a form of treatment that uses medications to stop hormones, especially oestrogen, from fueling the growth of breast cancer cells. For women during and during menopause, tamoxifen (Nolvadex) is prescribed, as are aromatase inhibitors such as anastrozole (Arimidex), exemestane (Aromasin), and letrozole (Femara) for postmenopausal women. Any forms of this treatment act by preventing the ovaries from producing hormones, either surgically or by prescription. Fulvestrant (Faslodex) is an injection that stops cancer cells from binding to oestrogen.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapies including fam-trastuzumab-deruxtecan-nxki (Enhertu), lapatinib (Tykerb), pertuzumab (Perjeta), and trastuzumab (Herceptin) help the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. These drugs are designed to destroy breast cancer cells with high amounts of a protein known as HER2. T-DM1, also known as ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla), is a mixture of Herceptin and the chemotherapy medication emtansine that is used to treat HER2-positive cancer cells. In women with advanced cancer, abemaciclib (Verzenio), palbociclib (Ibrance), and ribociclib (Kisqali) are often paired with an aromatase inhibitor or fulvestrant (Faslodex). In women who have already received hormonal treatment and chemotherapy, abemaciclib (Verzenio) should be used alone. Alpelisib (Piqray) is a PI3K inhibitor that is used to treat breast cancer in men and women who have acquired a particular gene alteration as a consequence of hormone therapy. Neratinib (Nerlynx) also slows the development of HER2-positive breast cancer cells by stopping them from receiving growth signals. PARP (poly ADP ribose polymerase) inhibitors are a modern class of medicines that target an enzyme that feeds cancer cells. Olaparib (Lynparza) and talazoparib are PARP inhibitors (Talzenna).
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that targets your own immune system. To treat triple-negative breast cancer that has advanced, the drugs atezolizumab (Tecentriq) and sacituzumab govitecan-hziy (Trodelvy) have been licenced.
Along with surgery or radiation, you can get chemotherapy, hormone treatment, or targeted therapy. They have the ability to destroy all cancer cells that have resisted such treatments.
Tips to Help You Choose
Despite the reality that there are certain common breast cancer treatment regimens, women have options.
- Discuss all of the complications and advantages of each medication plan with your doctor, as well as how they can impact your lifestyle.
- Consider being a member of a support network. Other breast cancer patients recognise what you’re going through and will bring you support and guidance. They may even be able to assist you with making a treatment decision.
- Ask the doctor if you should enrol in a clinical trial, which is a scientific study that examines experimental therapies until they are made accessible to the general population.
Side Effects of Treatment
The bulk of breast cancer therapies have harmful side effects. When the treatment is over, these often stop. Some may appear later. The following are examples of common side effects:
- Weight gain or loss
- Arm swelling
- Hair loss
- Skin or nail changes
- Mouth sores
- Symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes
- Trouble getting pregnant
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble thinking clearly (“chemo brain")
Referenced on 26.3.2021
- CDC: “Breast Cancer Treatment."
- Novartis Oncology.
- Pfizer Oncology.
- American Cancer Society.
- Susan Brown, Director of Education, Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
- Terri Ades, RN, director of cancer information, American Cancer Society.
- American Cancer Society: “Detailed Guide: Breast Cancer,” “What’s new in breast cancer research and treatment?" “How is breast cancer treated?" “Surgery for breast cancer," “Radiation therapy for breast cancer," “Chemotherapy for breast cancer," “Hormone therapy for breast cancer," “Targeted therapy for breast cancer."
- Breast Cancer Network of Strength: “Losing your hair,” “Weight Gain,” “Lymphedema."
- Breastcancer.org: “Treatment Side Effects,” “Shorter Radiation Regimen Causes Fewer Side Effects, Offers Better Quality of Life Than Traditional Regimen," “What Is Complementary Medicine?” “Depression.”
- Lookgoodfeelbetter.org: “Contact Us.”
- Penn Medicine: “Penn Study: Majority of Women with Early-Stage Breast Cancer in U.S. Receive Unnecessarily Long Courses of Radiation."
- Giordano, S. Journal of Clinical Oncology, May 2012.
- The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: “Accelerated partial breast irradiation."
- Susan G. Komen: “Tumor Profiling – Personalizing Treatment for Breast Cancer," “Late Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment."
- National Cancer Institute: “Complementary and Alternative Medicine,” “Clinical Trials for Complementary or Alternative Medicine Procedure(s).”
- Living Beyond Breast Cancer: “Complementary and integrative medicine for metastatic breast cancer.”
- Cancer.net: “Breast Cancer – Metastatic: Palliative Care.”
- Mayo Clinic: “Cancer Treatment.”