Get answers to your Breast Cancer questions.
Cancer - breast; Carcinoma - ductal; Carcinoma - lobular; DCIS; LCIS; HER2-positive breast cancer; ER-positive breast cancer; Ductal carcinoma in situ; Lobular carcinoma in situ
Treatment is based on many factors, including:
In general, cancer treatments may include:
Hormonal therapy is prescribed to women with ER-positive breast cancer to block certain hormones that fuel cancer growth.
Targeted therapy, also called biologic therapy, is a newer type of cancer treatment. This therapy uses special anticancer drugs that target certain changes in a cell that can lead to cancer. One such drug is trastuzumab (Herceptin). It may be used for women with HER2-positive breast cancer.
Cancer treatment may be local or systemic.
Most women receive a combination of treatments. For women with stage I, II, or III breast cancer, the main goal is to treat the cancer and prevent it from returning (curing). For women with stage IV cancer, the goal is to improve symptoms and help them live longer. In most cases, stage IV breast cancer cannot be cured.
After treatment, some women will continue to take medications such as tamoxifen for a period of time. All women will continue to have blood tests, mammograms, and other tests after treatment.
Women who have had a mastectomy may have reconstructive breast surgery, either at the same time as the mastectomy or later.
Talking about your disease and treatment with others who share common experiences and problems can be helpful. See: Cancer support group
New, improved treatments are helping persons with breast cancer live longer than ever before. However, even with treatment, breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Sometimes, cancer returns even after the entire tumor is removed and nearby lymph nodes are found to be cancer-free.
How well you do after being treated for breast cancer depends on many things. The more advanced your cancer, the poorer the outcome. Other factors used to determine the risk for recurrence and the likelihood of successful treatment include:
After considering all of the above, your doctor can discuss your risk of having a recurrence of breast cancer.
You may experience side effects or complications from cancer treatment. For example, radiation therapy may cause temporary swelling of the breast (lymphedema), and aches and pains around the area.
Lymphedema may start 6 to 8 weeks after surgery or after radiation treatment for cancer.
It can also start very slowly after your cancer treatment is over. You may not notice symptoms until 18 to 24 months after treatment. Sometimes it can take years to develop.
Ask your doctor about the side effects you may have during treatment.
Contact your health care provider for an appointment if:
Also call your health care provider if you develop symptoms after being treated for breast cancer, such as:
Carlson RW, Allred DC, Anderson BO, Burstein HJ, Carter WB, Edge SB, et al. Breast cancer. Clinical practice guidelines in oncology. J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2009 Feb;7(2):122-92.
Chlebowski RT, Kuller LH, Prentice RL, Stefanick ML, Manson JE, Gass M, et al. Breast cancer after use of estrogen plus progestin in postmenopausal women. N Engl J Med. 2009 Feb 5;360(6):573-87.
Hayes DF. Clinical practice. Follow-up of patients with early breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 2007;356(24): 2505-13.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885