How Is Breast Cancer Treated?

If the tests find breast cancer, you and your doctor will develop a treatment plan to eradicate the breast cancer, to reduce the chance of cancer returning in the breast, as well as to reduce the chance of the cancer traveling to a location outside of the breast. Treatment generally follows within a few weeks after the diagnosis.

The type of treatment recommended will depend on the size and location of the tumor in the breast, the results of lab tests done on the cancer cells, and the stage or extent of the disease. Your doctor usually considers your age and general health as well as your feelings about the treatment options.

    Breast cancer treatments are local or systemic.

Local treatments are used to remove, destroy, or control the cancer cells in a specific area, such as the breast. Surgery and radiation treatment are local treatments.
Systemic treatments are used to destroy or control cancer cells all over the body. Chemotherapy; hormone therapy such as tamoxifen (Soltamox, Nolvadex); aromatase inhibitors such as anastrozole (Arimidex), exemestane (Aromasin), and letrozole (Femara); and biologic drugs such as trastuzumab (Herceptin), pertuzumab (Perjeta), Ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla), palbociclib (Ibrance), and lapatinib (Tykerb) are systemic treatments. A patient may have just one form of treatment or a combination, depending on her needs.

  • What Happens After Treatment?

Following local breast cancer treatment, your doctors will determine the likelihood that the cancer will recur outside the breast. This team usually includes a medical oncologist, a specialist trained in using medicines to treat breast cancer. The medical oncologist, who works with the surgeon, may advise the use of hormone therapy or possibly chemotherapy. These treatments are used in addition to, but not in place of, local breast cancer treatment with surgery and/or radiation therapy.