Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy is the process in which cancer-killing drugs are either injected into the body or are given as oral pills. Chemotherapy usually follows surgery for breast cancer. Sometimes it may be given together with surgery as well as radiotherapy. Hormone therapy may be used as a follow-up treatment.
Drugs used in chemotherapy for breast cancer are similar to other cancers but the protocol for giving them may vary. The doctor decides the treatment plan for each individual. He/she will also determine how long and how often chemotherapy treatments must continue.
Chemotherapy, often shortened to just "chemo," is a systemic therapy which affects the whole body since the drugs pass through the blood. It affects both normal cells as well as cancer cells.
Generally, chemotherapy is given in cycles - which means that the drugs are given for 4-6 weeks and then a rest period of a few weeks is allowed. Then the treatment is repeated.
Specific treatment is based on:
- Overall health of the patient.
- The type and stage of the cancer.
- Whether the patient is still menstruating.
- Reactions to and tolerance of specific drugs.
Types of Chemotherapy: There are three types of chemotherapy:
- Neoadjuvent Chemotherapy: This is a type of chemotherapy which is given before surgery to shrink the tumors and make the operation easier for both the surgeon as well as the patient.
- Adjuvent Chemotherapy: In this case, chemotherapy is given after the surgery to treat any cancer cells which may still be present in the body in the chest wall of lymph nodes or which has spread elsewhere in the body.
- Palliative Chemotherapy: It is used to control (but not cure) the cancer in women in whom the cancer has spread beyond the breast and localized lymph nodes. It helps to control various symptoms like pain etc, and makes the remaining years of the life of the patient somewhat easier.