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Breast cancer treatment

Breast cancer treatment decisions will depend on how far the cancer has spread, the location of the tumour, the type of breast cancer, a women's general health and whether she's been through the menopause.

The aim of breast cancer treatment is to remove as much of the cancer as possible and to help prevent it from coming back.

What are the types of breast cancer treatment?

Breast cancer treatments are local or systemic.

Local treatments are used to remove, destroy or control the cancer cells in a specific area, such as the breast. They include:

  • Surgery, either mastectomy or ’conservative surgery’, which includes lumpectomy (wide local excision) where only the lump is removed, and quadrantectomy, where a larger part of the breast is removed - with sentinel lymph node removal.
  • Radiotherapy

Systemic treatments are used to destroy or control cancer cells all over the body. They include:

Systemic therapy can be given after local treatment (adjuvant therapy) or before (neoadjuvant therapy). Adjuvant therapy is used after local treatments to kill any cancer cells that remain anywhere in the body.

A patient may have just one form of treatment or a combination, depending on her needs.

Tips to remember about choosing breast cancer treatment

Although there are some typical treatment regimens used to treat breast cancer, women do have choices.

  • Discuss with your doctor all the risks and benefits of each option and how they relate to your own lifestyle.
  • Consider joining a support group to help you address the emotional issues surrounding your diagnosis and therapy choices.
  • Ask your doctor about participating in a clinical trial.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 30, 2016

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