Over the past 20 years, progress in treatment and early detection has led to improved survival for people of all ages and races, and with all stages of breast cancer. Between 1990 and 2010, breast cancer mortality (death) declined by 34 percent among women in the U.S. .
Because the rate of new cases of breast cancer has stayed about the same, and breast cancer mortality has declined, there is a large and growing number of breast cancer survivors. In fact, there are more than three million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. today (more than any other group of cancer survivors) !
The goal of treating early breast cancer is to get rid of the cancer and keep it from coming back.
Treatment for early breast cancer includes some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy. These treatments are designed to remove the cancer from the breast and destroy any cancer that might still be in the body.
Learn about treatment for metastatic breast cancer (also called advanced, stage IV breast cancer).
Learn about treatment for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
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 or lymph nodes in the underarm area. It also helps to ensure the cancer does not come back to that area. It 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. It uses drug therapies (either in IV or pill form) that travel throughout the body to get rid of cancer cells.
Systemic therapy includes chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy. Because systemic therapy is used in addition to (an adjunct to) breast surgery, these treatments are often called adjuvant therapy.
Learn about factors that affect treatment options.
No matter your age, your treatment plan depends on many factors, such as tumor stage, tumor grade, hormone receptor status and HER2 status.
Your overall health and other health conditions also play a role. For example, if you have heart disease, some medications used to treat breast cancer can do more harm than good.
All of these things, as well as your age, are considered when developing a treatment plan that is right for you.
Young women with breast cancer may have special concerns about early menopause and loss of fertility due to treatment. Learn about these issues for young women with breast cancer.
Throughout your treatment and beyond, you will receive care from many health care providers. Your health care team may include:
These professionals may be involved in your care during diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
Learn about choosing a physician.
You may find it helpful to create a notebook or other organizer to keep track of your breast cancer treatments and health care team. A three-ring binder often works well. This notebook should include:
Completing your breast cancer treatment plan (called adherence or compliance) is very important. People who complete the full course of treatment have a higher chance of survival. Sometimes completing your treatment plan may be hard, but there are things you can do to make it easier.
First, talk to your health care provider. If you are suffering from side effects, tell your provider right away. He/she may be able to help. Having fewer side effects can help you complete your treatment plan.
Sticking to your treatment plan can be very hard for long-term treatments, such as hormone therapy. Planning ahead can help you juggle your treatment and daily life. For example, if you have trouble remembering to take your pills, a daily pillbox or setting an alarm on your watch or mobile device (you may be able to download a mobile app) may help .
Learn more about the importance of following your breast cancer treatment plan.
Insurance issues (such as what to do if a claim is denied) may be a major concern when you are being treated for breast cancer.
Sometimes, paying for medications and other out-of-pocket expenses can also be a huge burden.
Learn about insurance and financial assistance programs.
If you need help getting to and from treatments or if you (or your family) need a place to stay overnight while getting treatment, there are programs that can help. There are also financial assistance programs to help you with child care and elder care while you are undergoing treatment.
Learn about transportation, lodging, child care and elder care assistance programs.
Susan G. Komen’s Breast Care Helpline:1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636)
Calls to our breast care helpline are answered by a trained and caring staff member Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET and from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PT. Our helpline provides free, professional support services to anyone with breast cancer questions or concerns, including breast cancer survivors and their families. You can also email the breast care helpline at email@example.com.
Breast cancer treatment options for different stages of breast cancer.
Information on the standard treatments (including their benefits and risks) for breast cancer including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapies.
Factors (such as tumor size and hormone receptor status) that affect treatment options as well as impact prognosis.
Interactive Treatment Navigation Tool
Facts for Life: Treatment choices - An Overview
Co-Pay Relief Brochure
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)
What gives you strength during treatment?
"I'll do whatever it takes to keep fighting." - Kathleen