Breast Cancer Chemotherapy
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Chemotherapy (chemo) is a common part of the breast cancer treatment process. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), your team of breast cancer experts provides leading chemotherapy treatments and innovative methods of delivery to fight all forms of breast cancer, including metastatic and recurrent disease.
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs. These drugs are designed to interfere with and halt the growth of rapidly-dividing cancer cells in the body. Breast cancer chemotherapy treatments usually involve a combination of drugs.
Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Treatments
Chemotherapy is a systemic breast cancer therapy. The anticancer drugs enter the bloodstream to reach cancer cells throughout the entire body, not just the breast. Breat cancer chemotherapy treatments are typically used to treat patients with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer.
Your CTCA medical oncologist may recommend chemo before you undergo breast cancer surgery (neo-adjuvant) or after surgery (adjuvant):
- Neo-adjuvant (or primary systemic) breast cancer chemotherapy may be used before surgery to reduce the size of large breast tumors and to destroy cancer cells. This type of chemotherapy often makes breast-conserving surgery possible. It also helps our cancer doctors determine the effectiveness of a particular regimen on the breast tumor.
- Adjuvant breast cancer chemotherapy may be used after surgery or radiation therapy to eliminate any remaining cancer cells that may not have been removed during breast cancer surgery and/or radiation therapy. It may also prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the body.
Some examples of chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast cancer include: anastrozole (Arimidex®), bevacizumab (Avastin®), capecitabine (Xeloda®), cisplatin (Platinol®), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®), doxorubicin (Adriamycin®), doxorubicin liposomal injection (Doxil®), exemestane (Aromasin®), fluorouracil (5-FU), gemcitabine (Gemzar®), ixabepilone (Ixempra®), letrozole (Femara®), paclitaxel (Taxol®) and trastuzumab (Herceptin®).
Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Options
The following are some chemotherapy options available for breast cancer patients at CTCA:
Port Placement Procedures for Breast Cancer Chemotherapy
Breast cancer chemotherapy is usually administered intravenously (through the vein) or orally (in the form of pills). So you don’t have to endure all of the poking and prodding of needles, your CTCA care team may recommend a central port placement procedure.
In this minor, 30-45 minute procedure, your doctor surgically implants a vascular access device (VAD), or port, into a blood vessel in the chest. Through the port, intravenous fluids and drugs may be given, or blood samples may be obtained. This helps to preserve your vein tissue from multiple needle pricks.
By providing a less intrusive way to administer chemotherapy, ports can help to improve your quality of life during breast cancer treatment.
Meeting Your Individual Needs
Your breast cancer team at CTCA will work closely with you to meet your individual needs before, during and after your breast cancer chemotherapy treatments:
- Before receiving chemotherapy, your care team may use tools, such as tumor molecular profiling, to test solid tumors outside of the body for sensitivity to specific chemotherapeutic drugs, thereby avoiding unnecessary toxicity to you. In addition, prior to receiving chemotherapy, your infusion nurses may provide pre-medications (prescribed by your medical oncologist) to help reduce nausea.
- During chemotherapy, your care team will work closely with you to monitor your breast cancer chemotherapy regime to make sure it continues to work for you. For example, you may receive physical exams, blood tests, CT scans, MRI scans and X-rays.
- After chemotherapy, your care team will use multiple measures to reduce the potential side effects of chemotherapy. To combat nausea, your medical oncologist may prescribe medicines like antiemetics and your naturopathic clinician may provide natural agents. An image enhancement specialist can provide tips to help you deal with hair loss, should it occur.
Addressing Side Effects of Breast Cancer Chemotherapy
Your CTCA care team recognizes the potential side effects of breast cancer chemotherapy drugs, such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, sore mouth, diarrhea, constipation and decreased blood counts. These side effects can impact your ability to tolerate treatments, maintain a healthy diet, stay active and enjoy a good quality of life.
Your care team will be as proactive as possible in anticipating and combating side effects so you can better tolerate your breast cancer chemotherapy treatments. For example, prior to receiving chemotherapy, your infusion nurses may provide pre-medications (prescribed by your medical oncologist) to help reduce nausea.
In addition, your care team will provide a combination of supportive therapies, based on your individual needs, to help you manage side effects of chemo. Therapies like nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine and mind-body medicine, can all help to reduce chemotherapy-related symptoms so you can continue to participate in the activities you enjoy most.
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