Breast Cancer Treatment

Surgery, radiation, and hormone therapy are common treatments for breast cancer.

Most breast cancer is treated with surgery, often along with additional treatments to help rid the body of cancer cells, or to ensure that it remains cancer-free.

Your doctor will determine a treatment plan based on the type of breast cancer  you have, its stage, and how aggressive the cancer is.

Treatment options may include one or more of the following:


Rather than remove an entire breast, surgeons perform a lumpectomy to remove a small portion of the breast in which there is a tumor.

Even though it’s the least invasive breast cancer surgery, lumpectomy can be very effective. In some cases, the procedure can prevent further surgery.

Partial Mastectomy

If more tissue needs to be removed than in a lumpectomy, your surgeon may perform a partial mastectomy.

In a partial mastectomy, the surgeon may remove a whole segment or quadrant of breast tissue, and possibly some of the lining over the chest muscles.


Mastectomy is a term used for several different procedures. In many cases, it means fully removing one or both breasts.

A mastectomy can also include removing lymph nodes in the armpit area if the cancer has spread there, or is at risk of spreading to the area.

Mastectomy may be an effective treatment option for several types of breast cancer, including:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), or noninvasive breast cancer
  • Stages I and II breast cancer
  • Stage III breast cancer
  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Paget diseas of the breast
  • Locally recurrent breast cancer


Also called radiotherapy, radiation uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors that remain in the breast, chest wall, or underarm area after surgery.

Radiation only affects cells in the area of the body that is being treated.


Chemotherapy involves using a combination of drugs to destroy cancer cells or slow down their growth.

It is usually administered intravenously (by IV) and in an outpatient setting. Chemotherapy can be given before or after breast cancer surgery, depending on your condition.

Your doctor will determine if chemotherapy is right for you based on the following factors:

  • Tumor type
  • Tumor grade (indicates how quickly it is likely to grow and spread)
  • Tumor size
  • Type and status of receptors in cancer cells
  • Number of lymph nodes involved, and degree of involvement
  • Risk of cancer spreading elsewhere in the body

Hormone Therapy

If your type of cancer is found to be sensitive to hormones, hormone (or hormonal) therapy may be recommended to slow or stop the growth of tumors.

This therapy works by interfering with the body’s ability to produce or use hormones.

Hormone therapy can be used to shrink and control cancer, or to prevent your cancer from returning after other treatments are completed.

Hormone therapy for cancer is different from hormone therapy used to help with symptoms of menopause.

Treatments that can be used in hormone therapy include:

  • Medications that block hormones from attaching to cancer cells, called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs)
  • Medications that stop the body from making estrogen after menopause, called aromatase inhibitors
  • A drug called  Faslodex , which targets estrogen receptors for destruction
  • Removal of the ovaries, or medications that stop the ovaries from making estrogen

Biologic Targeted Therapy

Biologic targeted therapy uses drugs that can alter the behavior of breast cancer cells.

Some of these drugs include:

  • Herceptin (trastuzumab)
  • Perjeta (pertuzumab)
  • Kadcyla (ado-trastuzumab emtansine)
  • Tykerb  (lapatinib)
  • Avastin  (bevacizumab)

Reconstruction Surgery

Most women who have had all or part of a breast removed can have their breast (or breasts) rebuilt to match the size and shape of the other breast or their original breasts.

The nipple and areola (dark area of skin around the nipple) can also be reconstructed.

Over the past decade, there have been significant achievements in breast reconstruction. Reconstructed breasts are often outwardly indistinguishable from a woman’s original breasts.

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