Chemotherapy / Hormone Therapy / Biological Therapy
Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer medications to kill malignant cells. The medications are taken in pill form or injected into the bloodstream. When chemotherapy is given after breast-cancer surgery, it's known as adjuvant therapy. When it is given before breast cancer surgery it is known as neo-adjuvant therapy. The goal is to kill any hidden cancerous cells that may have escaped the breast. Because chemotherapy kills cancerous cells throughout the body, it may help prevent the disease from spreading. It can also significantly reduce the risk of recurrence. Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles: a treatment period followed by a recovery period, and so on. Cycles may be weekly, every two weeks, or every three weeks. Chemotherapy may last for 3 – 6 months or longer in some circumstances.
In the video below, Medical Oncologist, Dr. Erin Ellis explains how chemotherapy is used for breast cancer.
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Anti-estrogen hormone therapy can slow the growth of breast-cancer cells that are sensitive to the female hormone estrogen. The most frequently used hormonal medications are tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors (such as arimidex and femara), which are given in pill form. When prescribed as a supplemental therapy for early-stage breast cancer, treatment generally lasts five years.
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Biological Therapy (Immunotherapy)
This is called biological therapy, “immunotherapy”, or targeted therapy. Immunotherapy is the use of treatments that enhance the body's immune-system response to a disease, such as cancer. Herceptin is an example of an immunotherapy. Some breast cancers overproduce a substance called HER-2/neu. Herceptin can help the immune system target the cancer cells that over-express HER-2/neu. This treatment is administered intravenously (through a vein) in an outpatient setting.
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