There are many ways to treat breast cancer. Your treatment plan will depend on several factors, including:
- The type of breast cancer you have
- The size of your tumor and how far the cancer has spread in your body, called the stage of your disease
- Whether your tumor has receptors for HER-2/neu protein, estrogen and progesterone, or other specific features
- Your age, whether you've gone through menopause, other health conditions you have, and your personal preferences
Some types of treatment remove or destroy the disease within the breast and nearby lymph nodes. You may have surgery alone or in combination with radiation therapy.
Other treatments destroy or control cancer cells throughout your body. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be recommended before or after surgery. It is used most commonly after surgery to kill any cancer cells left behind to prevent the cancer from spreading, but it can also be used before surgery to shrink the tumor before it is removed. Chemotherapy can be given as pills or an IV medication.
Although chemotherapy works well against cancer, it also can harm healthy cells. Hormone therapies are medications that prevent hormones, especially estrogen, from fueling the growth of breast cancer cells. Medicines include tamoxifen for women before and after menopause and aromatase inhibitors including Arimidex® (anastrazole), Femara® (letrozole) and Aromasin® (exemestane) for postmenopausal women.
Targeted therapies are medicines that target breast cancer cells that have high levels of a protein called HER-2/neu. They are given with chemotherapy or hormone therapy. Immunotherapy uses your own immune system to target cancer. These medicines have been approved for triple negative breast cancer that has spread.