Breast Cancer Home > Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

A common treatment for breast cancer is chemotherapy. This treatment involves drugs that are often used to decrease the chances the cancer will return after surgery, shrink the cancer prior to surgery, or control the disease when it has spread to other parts of the body. Usually, chemotherapy is given in cycles, during which you have treatment for a period of time, and then you have a few weeks to recover before your next treatment. The medicine is either administered through an IV in a vein or given as pills.

Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer: An Overview

Breast cancer research suggests that even if a lump is small, cancer cells may have spread outside the breast. Chemotherapy refers to drugs that travel throughout the body to slow the growth of these cancer cells or kill them if possible. Often, the drugs are injected into the bloodstream through an intravenous (IV) needle that is inserted into a vein. Some chemotherapy drugs are given as pills.

Treatment Plan for Breast Cancer Chemotherapy

The oncologist will recommend a chemotherapy treatment plan according to your individual case. The treatment will depend on:
  • Your age
  • Whether or not you still are having periods
  • The risk for spread or recurrence
  • Your general health.
The drugs you take will depend on the type and stage of cancer, where it is located, how much or how fast it has grown, and how it is affecting you.

Indications for Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy for breast cancer is used to:
  • Decrease the chances that cancer will come back after breast cancer surgery
  • Shrink breast cancer before surgery, when the tumor is large or it is inflammatory cancer
  • Control the disease when breast cancer is found in the lungs, bones, liver, brain, or other parts of the body.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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