Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be a very scary time. Once diagnosed, your cancer care team will discuss treatment options with you. Your treatment plan is tailored to you and based on many factors, including the stage of cancer, your age, general health and personal preferences, genetic testing, in addition to the presence of other medical issues. It’s important to be educated about these choices in order to make the best decision for you. There are two types of treatment for breast cancer: local therapy and systematic therapy. Each treatment option comes with its own risks and benefits, so you’ll want to weigh your options carefully.
Local therapies treat the tumor, without affecting the rest of the body. Types of local therapy include breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy.
Surgery involves the removal of the entire tumor from the breast. There are two types of surgery to remove breast cancer:
Some women with breast cancer will need radiation therapy, in addition to other treatments. Radiation uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. The need for radiation depends on the type of surgery you had and whether or not cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Unfortunately, not all breast cancer patients are eligible for radiation therapy. Radiation is not an option if you already have had radiation to that area of the body, have certain autoimmune diseases, such as scleroderma or systemic lupus or if you are pregnant.
Systemic therapies are treatments that use drugs to fight breast cancer. They reach cancer cells anywhere in the body, not just one area.
Chemotherapy treats a woman’s entire body for breast cancer, not just her breast. Chemotherapy drugs can be used to kill cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body. They might also be given before or after surgery to lower the chance of a reoccurrence.
There are situations when chemotherapy is recommended:
Some types of breast cancer are affected by hormones, i.e. the cancer cells need estrogen or progesterone to grow. Hormone therapies for breast cancer are recommended for women with hormone receptor-positive (ER-positive or PR-positive) breast cancers. These therapies slow or stop the growth of hormone-receptor-positive tumors by preventing the cancer cells from getting these hormones.
Targeted therapy drugs are designed to block the growth of breast cancer cells. Instead of working against all rapidly dividing cells as chemo drugs do, these therapies work by targeting specific changes in cancer cells that make them different from normal cells. Sometimes, targeted therapies help other types of breast cancer treatment work more effectively.
Many women will get more than one type of treatment for their cancer. Your Mercy care team will discuss all available options and provide the best course of treatment for your specific breast cancer.
Our guide provides basic information about the types, stages & treatments for breast cancer.
From diagnosis to recovery, Mercy offers expert cancer care for all types & stages of breast cancer.