Adjuvant Therapy for Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy refers to the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Research has shown that using it as an adjuvant therapy for early-stage breast cancer helps to prevent the original cancer from returning. This usually involves a combination of anticancer drugs, which has been shown to be more effective than a single anticancer drug.
Adjuvant hormone therapy deprives cancer cells of the hormone estrogen, which some breast cancer cells need to grow. Most often, this involves treatment with the drug tamoxifen. Research has shown that when tamoxifen is used as an adjuvant therapy for early-stage breast cancer, it helps to prevent the original cancer from returning and helps to prevent the development of new cancers in the other breast.
The ovaries are the main source of estrogen prior to menopause. For premenopausal women with breast cancer, adjuvant hormone therapy may involve tamoxifen to deprive the cancer cells of estrogen. Drugs to suppress the production of estrogen by the ovaries are under investigation. Alternatively, surgery may be performed to remove the ovaries.
Prognostic factors are characteristics of breast tumors that help predict whether the disease is likely to recur. Doctors consider these factors when they are deciding which patients might benefit from adjuvant therapy.
Several prognostic factors are commonly used to plan breast cancer treatment, including:
- Tumor size
- Lymph node involvement
- Hormone receptor status
- Histologic grade
- Proliferative capacity of a tumor
- Oncogene activation.
Prognosis (probable outcome of the disease) is closely linked to tumor size. In general, patients with small tumors that are 2 centimeters (three-quarters of an inch) or less in diameter have a better prognosis than do patients with larger tumors, especially those that are more than 5 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter.