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Local Versus Systemic Treatment for Breast Cancer

Treatment of breast cancer consists of either local therapy or systemic therapy.
Local Therapy
Surgery or radiation therapy is local breast cancer treatment. These types of treatments remove or destroy cancer in the breast. When breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body, local therapy may be used to control the disease in those specific areas.
Systemic Therapy
Chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapy are types of systemic breast cancer treatment. They enter the bloodstream and destroy or control cancer throughout the body. Some women with breast cancer have systemic therapy to shrink the tumor before surgery or radiation. Others have systemic therapy after surgery and/or radiation to prevent the cancer from coming back. Systemic breast cancer treatment is also used for cancer that has spread.

Possible Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment

Because treatment for breast cancer often damages healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. Side effects depend mainly on the type and extent of the treatment. Side effects may not be the same for each woman, and they may change from one treatment session to the next.
Before treatment starts, your breast cancer healthcare team will explain possible side effects and suggest ways to help you manage them. Also, at any stage of disease, supportive care is available to control pain and other symptoms, to relieve the side effects of the treatment, and to ease emotional concerns.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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