Figure 5.4 lists the most effective drugs for treating early and locally advanced breast cancer.
Figure 5.4: Chemotherapy drugs for early and locally advanced breast cancer
Chemotherapy drugs can be given one at a time, or in combination. Common drug combinations used to treat early and locally advanced breast cancer are listed below. Other combinations are also used.
Figure 5.5: Chemotherapy drug combinations for early and locally advanced breast cancer
Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide
Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide followed by paclitaxel
AC—> Docetaxel (T)
Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide followed by docetaxel
Docetaxel, doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide
Cyclophosphamide and docetaxel
Cyclophosphamide, methotrexate (Rheumatrex) and 5-fluorouracil
Docetaxel, carboplatin and trastuzumab (Herceptin)*
To learn more about a specific chemotherapy drug, visit the National Institutes of Health’s Medline Plus website.
All breast cancers are tested for HER2/neu status. HER2/neu status and other factors help guide treatment (learn more).
If a tumor is HER2/neu-positive (HER2-positive), the targeted therapy drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) is included in the chemotherapy regimen. Trastuzumab is not used to treat HER2/neu-negative (HER2-negative) cancers. Trastuzumab is given for one year. It is usually started with chemotherapy, and then continued after the chemotherapy has ended.
Most studies on HER2-positive breast cancers have used the AC regimen followed by a taxane drug (paclitaxel or docetaxel) and added the trastuzumab during the taxane treatment. This is the ACTH drug regimen listed in Figure 5.5.
Learn more about trastuzumab.
Some drugs and drug combinations used to treat early breast cancer are also used to treat metastatic cancer. Figure 5.6 lists the most common chemotherapy drugs (used alone or in combination) to treat metastatic breast cancer. This list is not exhaustive and does not include drugs that are rarely used or no longer in use.
Figure 5.6: Chemotherapy drugs for metastatic breast cancer
5-Fluorouracil (5FU or F)
Paclitaxel, albumin bound
Chemotherapy drug costs can quickly become a financial burden for you and your family. Medicare and many insurance providers offer prescription drug plans. One may already be included in your policy or you may be able to buy an extra plan for prescriptions.
Some drugs are off-patent and a generic form may be available. Generic drugs are cheaper than the name brands, but are just as effective. You may also qualify for assistance from programs that help with drug costs or offer low-cost or free prescriptions.
Learn more about insurance plans and prescription drug assistance programs.
Susan G. Komen® position on fairness in oral chemotherapy drug coverage
While intravenously (IV) chemotherapy is a well-known part of cancer treatment, an increasing number of chemotherapy drugs today can be taken by mouth (oral). Insurance policies have not kept pace with these advances in chemotherapy. As a result, people often find themselves facing high out-of-pocket costs when filling their prescriptions for oral chemotherapy (sometimes costing thousands of dollars per month). This disparity exists because IV chemotherapy is usually covered under a health insurance plan’s medical benefit, whereas oral chemotherapy is usually covered under a plan’s prescription drug benefit.
High prescription drug costs are a barrier to care. High costs can prevent people from getting the medications prescribed by their health care providers. No one should be forced to get less appropriate treatment simply because an insurer provides more coverage for IV chemotherapy than oral chemotherapy.
Komen supports efforts at the state and federal level to require insurers to provide equal (or better) coverage for oral chemotherapy as they provide for IV chemotherapy to ensure people have access to affordable, appropriate treatment for their cancer.
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Breast Cancer 101 - Chemotherapy Drugs
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