Breast Cancer Treatment
Starting treatment for breast cancer can be overwhelming and confusing. Understanding your different treatment options and how they are based on your unique breast cancer diagnosis and personal choices will help you be better informed as a patient.
Each treatment option has benefits and risks to consider along with your own values and lifestyle. It’s important to make thoughtful, informed decisions that are best for you in partnership with your doctor. It’s also important to complete your breast cancer treatment plan. Those who complete their full course of treatment have a higher chance of survival.
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Treatments for Breast Cancer
Treatment for early breast cancer is designed to remove the cancer from the breast and destroy any cancer that might still be in your body. Based on your specific breast cancer diagnosis, your doctor will recommend how to best treat your cancer. Your treatment will be based on your personal preferences and:
- The biology of the tumor, including biomarkers (such as hormone receptor status and HER2 status)
- Tumor profiling test results for some estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers
- The stage of the breast cancer
- Your overall health, age, menopausal status and other medical issues
Types of treatment
DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ)
DCIS is confined to the ducts of the breast and is known as non-invasive breast cancer. However, without treatment, it can progress to invasive cancer over time. Invasive breast cancer is cancer that has spread from the original location (milk ducts or lobules) into the surrounding breast tissue and possibly into the lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
Early breast cancer
Treatment for early invasive breast cancers includes some combination of:
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone therapy
- HER2-targeted therapy
- CDK4/6 inhibitor therapy
- PARP inhibitor therapy
Metastatic breast cancer
If breast cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs, it is known as metastatic breast cancer. Treatment for those living with metastatic breast cancer focuses on maintaining quality of life and extending life. Many different drug therapies are used to treat metastatic breast cancer.
Breast cancer recurrence
Everyone who’s had breast cancer is at risk of recurrence (return of breast cancer), but risk varies greatly from person to person. Most people diagnosed with breast cancer will never have a recurrence. Talk with your doctor about your risk of recurrence.
With treatment, chances of survival for young women with early breast cancer are good. However, young women being treated for breast cancer may be concerned about loss of fertility (the ability to have a natural pregnancy) and other issues.
Prognosis for breast cancer in men is similar to prognosis in women of the same age and cancer stage. However, men are often diagnosed at a later stage than women.
Research is ongoing to improve all areas of treatment for breast cancer. New therapies are being studied in clinical trials. The results of these studies will decide whether these therapies become part of the standard of care. After discussing the benefits and risks with your doctor, we encourage you to consider joining a clinical trial.
Perhaps the most promising new treatments for breast cancer are targeted therapies. Unlike many standard treatments, targeted therapies attack specific cancer cells and leave healthy cells alone. The hope is they may help limit side effects and improve survival. Learn about these and other emerging therapies under study.
Managing Side Effects
Managing side effects is an important part of breast cancer care. All treatments for breast cancer have some short-term physical side effects. The good news is most side effects can be managed and many can be prevented. Even so, it’s normal to worry. Before any treatment begins, talk with your doctor about possible side effects and ways to deal with them. Learn about possible short-term side effects of different treatments:
- Lumpectomy (pain and other side effects)
- Mastectomy (pain and other side effects)
- Radiation therapy (pain, other short-term side effects and late effects)
- Chemotherapy (pain, other short-term side effects and late effects)
- HER2-targeted therapy (side effects of trastuzumab, ado-trastuzumab emtansine, pertuzumab and neratinib)
- Hormone therapy (side effects of tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors and ovarian suppression)
Supportive care is all the care given to improve your quality of life. It begins at diagnosis and continues throughout treatment and beyond. Taking care of your emotional, social and spiritual well-being during this time is as important as tending to the physical side effects of treatment.
Talk with your doctor about how you’re coping during treatment. They can help you find ways to improve your emotional well-being. Your doctor or a patient navigator can also help you or your loved ones find a counselor or support group.
Susan G. Komen® Support Resources
Through our Helpline, we provide the following:
Contact the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or firstname.lastname@example.org. All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. Se habla español.