Early breast cancer (stage I or II) is the most common invasive breast cancer in the U.S.
Learn more about the stages of breast cancer.
With treatment, people with early breast cancer usually have a good prognosis. However, survival depends on each person’s diagnosis and treatment.
One large study found that about 90 percent of women diagnosed between 1990-2004 with stage I or stage II breast cancer lived at least 5 years beyond diagnosis .
With improvements in treatment since that time, survival for women diagnosed today is even higher.
Treatment for early breast cancer usually involves some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or targeted therapy.
Surgery is usually the first step in treating early breast cancer. You may have a mastectomy (the entire breast is removed) or a lumpectomy (only the tumor and some surrounding tissue are removed).
With either type of surgery, some lymph nodes in the underarm area (axillary nodes) may be removed to find out whether the cancer has spread there.
Women who have a lumpectomy will also have radiation therapy to the breast to get rid of any cancer cells that may remain. This lowers the chances of the cancer coming back (recurrence) .
Most women who have a mastectomy do not need radiation therapy.
In some cases, radiation therapy is used after mastectomy to treat the chest wall and the axillary nodes.
Learn more about mastectomy and lumpectomy.
Learn more about radiation therapy.
For a summary of research studies on mastectomy versus lumpectomy plus radiation therapy and overall survival in early breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
For a summary of research studies on radiation therapy following mastectomy in women with stage II or III breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
It is uncommon to have surgery as the only treatment. Some combination of chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or targeted therapy with trastuzumab (Herceptin), almost always follows breast surgery.
These drug therapies (either in IV or pill form) travel throughout the body (systemic therapy) to help ensure the body is completely rid of cancer. They may be called adjuvant therapy because they are in addition to (an adjunct to) surgery.
Which treatments you will need after surgery depends on:
For women, whether you are pre- or postmenopausal can also play a role in treatment choices.
Learn more about factors that affect treatment options.
Learn more about chemotherapy.
Learn more about hormone therapy.
Learn more about trastuzumab (Herceptin).
For a summary of research studies on chemotherapy and early breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
For a summary of research studies on tamoxifen in women with hormone receptor-positive early breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
For a summary of studies on trastuzumab (Herceptin) and early breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
For some women with large tumors, chemotherapy or hormone therapy may be used before surgery (called neoadjuvant or pre-operative therapy).
Neoadjuvant therapy can shrink a large tumor enough so that a lumpectomy becomes an option to a mastectomy.
For those with HER2-positive breast cancer, trastuzumab (Herceptin) may be included in neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
Learn more about neoadjuvant therapy.
For a summary of studies on neoadjuvant chemotherapy in women with stage II or stage III breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
For a summary of studies on neoadjuvant hormone therapy for women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
Learn more about talking with your health care provider.
Although the exact treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person, guidelines help ensure quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and the consensus of experts.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are two respected organizations that regularly update and post their guidelines online. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) also has overviews of treatment options.
Talk with your health care providers about which guidelines they use as the basis of their care. Since there is often a time lag between the latest research and updates of treatment guidelines, most medical oncologists prefer to base their treatment on the latest research that ultimately drives these guidelines.
You can play an active role in making treatment decisions by understanding your breast cancer diagnosis, your treatment options and their possible side effects.
Together, you and your health care provider can choose treatments that fit your values and lifestyle.
In 2013, the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academy of Sciences (formerly the Institutes of Medicine) released a set of recommendations (below) on improving cancer care in the U.S. The report, Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis recommended improvements to fix shortcomings that add cost and burden to cancer care. Susan G. Komen was one of 13 organizations that sponsored this study.
The report identified key ways to improve quality of care:
Read the full report.
Breast Cancer 101 - Treatment for Stage I
Breast Cancer 101 - Treatment for Stage II
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