- 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
- Bone-directed therapy for breast cancer
- Clinical trials for breast cancer
- Complementary and alternative therapies for breast cancer
How is breast cancer treated?
General types of treatment
The main types of treatment for breast cancer are:
Treatments can be put into broad groups based on how they work and when they are used. It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. You can find some good questions to ask in the section “What should you ask your doctor about breast cancer?”
Adjuvant and neoadjuvant therapy
When people who seem to have no cancer left after surgery are given more treatment it is called adjuvant therapy. Doctors know that cancer cells can break away from the main tumor and begin to spread through the bloodstream in the early stages of the disease. It’s very hard to tell if this has happened. But if it has, the cancer cells can start new tumors in other organs or in the bones. The goal of adjuvant therapy is to kill these hidden cells. Both systemic therapy (like chemo, hormone treatment, and targeted therapy) and radiation can be used as adjuvant therapy. But not every patient needs adjuvant therapy.
Some people are given systemic treatment or radiation before surgery to shrink a tumor. This is called neoadjuvant therapy.
Last Medical Review: 09/09/2014
Last Revised: 02/04/2015