Breast Cancer Medication
There are several possible medications available for treating breast cancer, including chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapy. Your treatment plan will depend on several factors, such as the severity of your breast cancer, your age and general health, other cancer treatments you have tried, and how aggressive you want your treatment to be.
An Overview of Medication for Breast CancerBreast cancer can be treated in several different ways. Breast cancer treatment often includes one or more of the following:
Medications often play a key role in the treatment of breast cancer. Essentially, there are three basic types of breast cancer medications, including:
- Hormone therapy
- Biological therapy.
Chemotherapy medications are used to kill cancer cells. While chemotherapy can be very effective at killing cancer cells, unfortunately most chemotherapy medications cannot tell the difference between cancer cells and healthy cells.
Chemotherapy is typically most lethal to cells that divide quickly. While cancer cells often divide quickly, some types of healthy cells (particularly hair cells, blood cells, and cells in the digestive tract) also divide quickly. It is this destruction of healthy cells that causes most of the common chemotherapy side effects.
Many people fear chemotherapy due to the potential side effects. Fortunately, there are now ways to treat or prevent some of the most bothersome side effects of chemotherapy. For instance, there are a wide variety of nausea and vomiting medications used to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy (see Chemotherapy and Nausea).
While chemotherapy is most often administered intravenously (by IV) in a hospital or cancer clinic, some chemotherapy medications can be taken by mouth. However, just because they are taken by mouth does not mean they are less likely to cause side effects. The specific chemotherapy regimen your healthcare provider will recommend will depend on several factors, such as:
- The severity of your breast cancer (see Stages of Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Treatment By Stage)
- Other types of breast cancer treatment you have had or will have
- Your age and general health
- How aggressive you would like to be in your treatment.
Often, chemotherapy is given in cycles. This means that you will have chemotherapy for one day (or several days, depending on the regimen), and then you will have several days without chemotherapy. This gives your body a chance to recover before your next dose.
(Click Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer for more information.)