Treatment for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a non-invasive breast cancer, involves surgery and possibly radiation therapy and/or tamoxifen.
Treatment for invasive breast cancer usually involves some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or targeted therapy. The order of the therapies and the specific treatments depend on the cancer stage and the characteristics of the tumor.
These sections describe the recommended treatments for different stages of breast cancer.
Your breast cancer treatment plan is based on both medical and personal choices. It is tailored to:
Because of the differences between tumors and between people, your treatment plan may differ from another person’s, even though you both have breast cancer. Each treatment option has risks and benefits to consider along with your own values and lifestyle.
Treatment for breast cancer can be thought of in two areas: local therapy and systemic therapy.
Local therapy removes the cancer from a limited (local) area, such as the breast, chest wall and lymph nodes in the underarm area (axillary nodes). It also helps to ensure the cancer does not come back (recur) to that area. It usually involves surgery, with or without radiation therapy to the breast area.
Systemic therapy aims to get rid of cancer cells that may have spread from the breast to other parts of the body. This usually means drug therapy, which travels throughout the body to get rid of cancer cells that may have spread.
Systemic therapy includes chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy. Because systemic therapy is in addition to (an adjunct to) breast surgery, these treatments are often called adjuvant therapy.
Learn about factors that affect treatment options.
Learn about financial issues related to treatment.
No matter your age, your treatment plan depends on many factors, such as the stage of the breast cancer and the characteristics of the tumor. Your overall health and other health conditions you may have also play a role in your treatment plan. For example, if you have heart disease, some medications can do more harm than good. All of these things help tailor your treatment plan.
Younger women with breast cancer have special concerns about early menopause and loss of fertility due to treatment. Learn about these issues for young women with breast cancer.
Although the exact treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person, treatment guidelines help ensure quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and the consensus of experts.
The National Comprehensive Care Network (NCCN) and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are two respected organizations that regularly update and post their guidelines online.
Talk with your health care providers about which treatment guidelines they use as the basis of their practice. Since there is often a time lag between the latest research and updates of guidelines, most medical oncologists prefer to base their treatment on the latest research that ultimately drives these guidelines.
In 2013, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) 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 recommends improvements to fix shortcomings that add cost and burden to cancer care. Susan G. Komen was one of 13 organizations sponsoring this study.
The report identified key ways to improve quality of care:
Read the full report.
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Facts for Life: Treatment Choices - An Overview
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