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Role of Local and Systemic Therapies for MBC Patients

Local therapy involves surgery, with or without radiation therapy, to remove the cancer from a limited (local) area to help ensure cancer doesn’t return to that area. Systemic therapy seeks to eliminate cancer cells that may have spread from the breast to other parts of the body through drug therapies such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy and HER2-targeted therapy.

The Susan G. Komen® MBC Impact Series explored the role of local and systemic therapies for metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients in an interview with Dr. Angelique Richardson, a medical oncologist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at UC San Diego Health.

Dr. Richardson explained that MBC patients may consider local or systemic therapies if they are experiencing symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Lymphedema
  • Infection or poor wound healing
  • Arm weakness or sensory loss due to compression of nerves under the arm

“The goal is to decrease the local disease burden and cause symptom relief,” Dr. Richardson said. “Many times, this can be achieved with systemic therapy alone, but other times we will use radiation therapy or surgery. Sometimes radiation can be given before or after systemic therapy, and sometimes it’s given with radiation.”

Surgery such as a palliative mastectomy or lumpectomy may also be used, Dr. Richardson explained.

“If the patient is asymptomatic, then local therapy such as radiation therapy and surgery are not typically given as standard of care due to the lack of evidence showing that this improves survival,” she said. “There can be exceptions made case-by-case in a multidisciplinary setting, and these decisions need to include a thorough discussion with the patient to consider their preferences.”

You can learn more about MBC and the types of treatment available here

The MBC Impact Series provides people living with metastatic breast cancer and their loved ones a safe, collaborative space to gather information related to MBC and discover practical resources to help make decisions for improved physical and emotional health. Click here to learn about this free education, along with upcoming dates and topics.