The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Treatment by Breast Cancer Diagnosis

The sections below describe the recommended treatments based on different breast cancer diagnoses: 

We also have information on:

Learn about factors that affect treatment options.

Learn about financial issues related to treatment.

Your breast cancer treatment plan

Your breast cancer treatment plan is based on both medical and personal choices. 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 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. Treatment is personalized to give the most effective treatment for each person’s breast cancer (personalized medicine).

Breast cancer treatment can be divided into local therapy and systemic therapy.

Local 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 also helps ensure the cancer doesn’t come back in that area.

Local therapy includes surgery, with or without radiation therapy to the breast and nearby lymph nodes.

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.

Systemic therapy uses drug therapies that travel throughout the body to get rid of cancer cells. It includes chemotherapyhormone therapy and HER2-targeted therapy

Some drug therapies are given by vein (through an IV) or injection, and some are pills.

Because systemic therapy is in addition to (an adjunct to) breast surgery, these treatments are often called adjuvant therapy.

Learn about factors that affect treatment options.

How does your age affect your treatment plan?

No matter your age, your treatment plan depends on many factors, such as tumor stage, tumor grade, hormone receptor status and HER2 status

Your overall health and other health conditions also play a role. For example, if you have heart disease, some medications used to treat breast cancer can do more harm than good.

All these things, as well as your age, are considered when planning your treatment.

Young women

Young women with breast cancer may have special concerns about early menopause and loss of fertility due to treatment. 

Learn about issues for young women with breast cancer.

Treatment guidelines

Although the exact treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person, guidelines help ensure high-quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and agreement among experts.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are respected organizations that regularly review and update their guidelines.

In addition, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has treatment overviews.

Talk with your health care team about which treatment guidelines they use. 

The National Academy of Sciences released the report, Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis in 2013. Susan G. Komen® was one of 13 organizations that sponsored this study.

The report identified key ways to improve quality of care:

  • Ensure cancer patients understand their diagnoses so they can make informed treatment decisions with their health care providers
  • Develop a trained and coordinated workforce of cancer professionals
  • Focus on evidence-based care
  • Focus on quality measures
  • Provide accessible and affordable care for all

Read the full report.

 Updated 05/20/21