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Breast Cancer Treatment

Women diagnosed with breast cancer have many treatment options. These include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapy. Many women may receive more than one type of treatment, depending on certain factors; such as the stage of breast cancer, the size of the tumor in relation to the breast, and whether the patient has gone through menopause.

There are two main types of treatments:

  • Local therapy: The two forms of local therapy are surgery and radiation therapy. These forms of therapy 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: The forms of systemic therapy are: chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapy. This form of therapy uses the bloodstream to destroy, or control, cancer throughout the entire body. Systemic therapy is also used to shrink the tumor before surgery or radiation. But systemic therapy can also be used after surgery and radiation, to help prevent the cancer from returning. Systemic therapy is furthermore used for cancer that has metastasized (spread to other organs).

Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. The side effects depend mainly on the type and extent of the treatment. Not every woman may encounter the same side effects.

Before treatment starts, your health care team will explain possible side effects and suggest ways to help you manage them.