Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

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Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is used to describe medications which help fight cancer. The medications can be administered in different ways. In breast cancer the common way is via your veins. A small plastic tube will be inserted into the vein to allow this method called intravenous chemotherapy. There are different groups of anti-cancer drugs, the main type in breast cancer is known as cytotoxic drugs. There is another type called targeted agents like Herceptin which may be beneficial for selected patients only, The type of drugs best suited for you will be discussed in detail with your specialist doctor in charge of deciding your chemotherapy regiment, who is a medical oncologist.

How does it work?

Cytotoxic means toxic to cells. Chemotherapy works by stopping or slowing the growth of cells. It affects both normal cells in your body and cancerous cells as well. It is given in blocks, called cycles, to allow the normal cells to recover their function.

Who requires chemotherapy

Breast cancer treatment involves a multi-disciplinary approach including surgery followed by adjuvant treatment in the form of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and/ or endocrine treatment. Your breast surgeon will tailor your treatment plan according to your disease state which is personalized for each individual patient. You will then have discussions with the respective specialist involved, such as the medical oncologist and radiation oncologist for a detailed treatment plan.

Adjuvant Chemotherapy refers to chemotherapy required after surgery to minimize the risk of cancer relapsing in future.

Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy is chemotherapy given to shrink the tumour prior to surgery.

Palliative Chemotherapy is given in patients with cancer which has spread to other organs other than the breast and the lymph nodes. It aims to slow the growth of the cancer and sometimes help to relief the symptoms of the advanced cancer.

Is Chemotherapy the same for all cancer types?

Chemotherapy works differently for different cancer types eg treatment for a lung or stomach cancer patient is different from a breast cancer patient. The treatment outcome and benefits also differ greatly in different cancer types. Hence it is not advisable to compare the benefits based on experience of different individuals. It is best to understand it from your trusted breast cancer specialist, medical oncologist or established support groups such as the breast cancer foundation if required.