Breast Cancer Treatment by Stage

Treatment for Stage IIIB and Inoperable IIIC Breast Cancer

Women with stage IIIB (including inflammatory breast cancer) or inoperable stage IIIC breast cancer usually are treated with chemotherapy. (Inoperable means that the cancer cannot be treated with surgery.)

 

If the chemotherapy shrinks the tumor, the doctor then may suggest further treatment.

 

Mastectomy

With this type of surgery, the surgeon removes the breast. In most cases, the lymph nodes under the arm are removed as well. After surgery, a woman may receive radiation therapy to the chest and underarm area.

 

Breast-Sparing Surgery

In this type of surgery, the surgeon removes the cancer but not the breast. In most cases, the lymph nodes under the arm also are removed. After surgery, a woman may receive radiation therapy to the breast and underarm area.

 

Radiation Therapy Instead of Surgery

Some women have radiation therapy but no surgery. The doctor also may recommend more chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or both. This therapy may help prevent the disease from coming back in the breast or elsewhere.

 

Treatment for Stage IV Breast Cancer

In most cases, women with stage IV breast cancer receive hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or both. Some also may have biological therapy. Radiation may be used to control tumors in certain parts of the body. These treatments are not likely to cure the disease, but they may help a woman live longer.

 

Many women have supportive care along with anticancer treatments. Anticancer treatments are given to slow the progress of the disease. Supportive care helps manage pain, other symptoms, or side effects (such as nausea) -- it does not aim to extend a woman's life. Supportive care can help a woman feel better physically and emotionally. Some women with advanced cancer decide to have only supportive care.

 

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