Treating Breast Cancer
This section discusses treatment for early and locally-advanced breast cancers (stages I, II and III). These breast cancers include invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma.
Learn about treatment for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
Learn about treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
Breast cancer treatment
The goal of treating early and locally-advanced breast cancers is to get rid of the cancer and keep it from coming back.
Treatment includes some combination of:
These treatments are designed to remove the cancer from the breast and destroy any cancer that might still be in the body.
Your breast cancer treatment plan
Your breast cancer treatment plan is based on both medical and personal choices. Together, you and your health care provider make treatment decisions.
After you get a recommended treatment plan from your health care provider, study your treatment options. Talk to those closest to you. Consider getting a second opinion.
Make thoughtful, informed decisions that are best for you. Each treatment option has risks and benefits to consider along with your own values and lifestyle.
Your treatment is tailored to:
- Your specific breast cancer (the biology of the tumor, including biomarkers (such as hormone receptor status and HER2 status))
- The stage of the breast cancer
- Your overall health, age, menopausal status and other medical issues
- Your personal preferences
Because of the differences between tumors and between people, your treatment plan may differ from someone else’s, even though you both have breast cancer.
Breast cancer treatment can be divided into local therapy and systemic therapy.
Local therapy removes the cancer from a limited (local) area, such as the breast, chest wall and lymph nodes in the underarm area. It helps ensure the cancer doesn’t come back to that area.
Systemic therapy (adjuvant therapy)
Systemic therapy aims to get rid of cancer cells that may have spread from the breast to other parts of the body. These cells are too small to see on scans or to measure with lab tests.
Some drug therapies are given by vein (through an IV) or injection, and some are pills.
Because systemic therapy is used in addition to (an adjunct to) breast surgery, these treatments are often called adjuvant therapy.
Learn about factors that affect treatment options.
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