This section discusses treatment for early and locally-advanced breast cancers (stages I, II and III), including invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma.
Learn about treatment for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
Learn about treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
The goal of treating early and locally-advanced breast cancers is to get rid of the cancer and keep it from coming back.
Treatment includes some combination of:
These treatments are designed to remove the cancer from the breast and destroy any cancer that might still be in the body.
Your breast cancer treatment plan is based on both medical and personal choices.
Together, you and your health care provider make breast cancer treatment decisions. After you get a recommended treatment plan from your provider, take time to study your treatment options and make thoughtful, informed decisions. 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 another’s, even though you both have breast cancer.
Breast cancer treatment can be divided into local 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 ensure the cancer doesn’t come back in that area.
Local therapy involves surgery, with or without radiation therapy to the breast and nearby lymph nodes.
The goal of systemic therapy is to get rid of cancer cells that may have spread from the breast to other parts of the body. These cells are too small to see on scans or to measure with lab tests.
Systemic therapy uses drug therapies that travel throughout the body to get rid of cancer cells. It includes chemotherapy, hormone therapy and HER2-targeted therapy.
Some drug therapies are given by vein (through an IV) and some are pills.
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.
Important information from the CDC about the seasonal flu.
Managing side effects and supportive care are important parts of breast cancer treatment.
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 should be avoided so they don't cause more harm to your heart.
All of these things, as well as your age, are considered when planning your treatment.
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 get 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.
It may be helpful to use a notebook, 3-ring binder or other organizer to keep track of your breast cancer treatments and health care team.
You may want to 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.
Tell your health care provider right away if you have any side effects. Your provider may be able to help. Having fewer side effects can help you complete your treatment plan.
Sticking to your 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 medicine, a daily pillbox or setting an alarm on your watch or mobile device (you may be able to download an 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) can be a major concern while you are being treated for breast cancer.
Paying for medications and other out-of-pocket expenses can also be a burden. You may hear the term financial toxicity to describe this 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 you're getting treatment, there are programs that can help.
There are also programs to help with the cost of 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. Our helpline provides free, professional support services to anyone with breast cancer questions or concerns, including people diagnosed with breast cancer and their families.
You can also email the helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interactive Treatment Navigation Tool
Facts for Life: Making Breast Cancer Treatment Decisions
Komen Treatment Assistance Program
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)
What gives you strength during treatment?