Chemotherapy for breast cancer
Breast cancer chemotherapy is typically used to treat patients with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Your medical oncologist may recommend chemotherapy 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®).
Meeting your individual needs
We 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 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 care services, based on your individual needs, to help you manage side effects of chemo. Therapies like nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine and mind-body medicine, may help to reduce chemotherapy-related symptoms so you can continue to participate in the activities you enjoy most.