These sections describe the recommended treatments for different stages of breast cancer.
Learn about financial issues related to treatment.
Your breast cancer treatment plan is based on both medical and personal choices. Each treatment option has risks and benefits to consider along with your own values and lifestyle.
Your treatment is tailored to:
Because of the differences between tumors and between people, your treatment plan may differ from someone else’s, even though you both have breast cancer.
Breast cancer treatment can be divided into two parts: local and systemic.
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 ensure the cancer doesn’t come back (recur) to that area.
Local therapy includes surgery and 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.
Systemic therapy usually means drug therapy, which travels throughout the body to get rid of cancer cells that may have spread.
Systemic therapy uses drug therapies (either by vein (through an IV) or pill form) that travel throughout the body to get rid of cancer cells. It 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.
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 your treatment plan.
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.
Although the exact treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person, guidelines help ensure high quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and agreement among experts.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are two respected organizations that regularly review and update their guidelines.
In addition, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has treatment overviews.
Talk with your health care providers about which treatment guidelines they use. Since there’s often a lag time between the latest research and guideline updates, most providers prefer to base their treatment on the latest research.
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.
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Facts for Life: Treatment Choices - An Overview
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