Chemotherapy Treatment for Breast Cancer
- How is chemotherapy given?
- When is chemotherapy given?
- Can I still work while receiving chemotherapy treatments?
- How will I know if the chemotherapy treatments are working?
- What are the potential side effects of chemotherapy drugs?
- How will chemotherapy affect my menstrual cycle?
- What is menopause?
- How does chemotherapy influence the onset of menopause?
- Will my menstrual flow be different after chemotherapy?
- Will my periods return after chemotherapy?
- Can I get pregnant while I'm receiving chemotherapy?
- What is the safest type of birth control during chemotherapy?
- After I've completed chemotherapy, how long must I wait before trying to get pregnant?
- Are there risks of chromosomal abnormalities or cancer in children conceived after chemotherapy?
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
Chemotherapy includes many different drugs, given alone or incombination. There are many drugs used to treat breast cancer. Ask your doctor for specific information and side effects you can expect from your chemotherapy medications.
How Is Chemotherapy Given?
Chemotherapy drugs are given intravenously (directly into a vein) or orally (by mouth). Once the drugs enter the bloodstream, they travel to almost all parts of the body in order to reach cancer cells that may have spread beyond the breast -- therefore chemotherapy is considered a whole-body, or "systemic," form of breast cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy is given in cycles of treatment followed by a recovery period. The entire chemotherapy treatment generally lasts three to six months, depending on the type of drugs given. For example, a drug may be given alone or in combination with other drugs on the first day of a 21-day treatment cycle. Such cycles may then be repeated at 3-week intervals for a total of 4 cycles of chemotherapy treatment given over 3 months.
When Is Chemotherapy Given?
When breast cancer is found only limited to the breast or lymph nodes, chemotherapy may be still be given after a lumpectomy or mastectomy. If the analysis of the findings from such a surgery suggests that there is a risk that cancer cells may have escaped from the breast and may be as yet undetectable elsewhere in the body, then chemotherapy may be recommended. This is known as adjuvant treatment and may help reduce the chance of breast cancer breast cancer recurrence.
Chemotherapy is sometimes given before surgery (called neoadjuvant treatment) in order to shrink the tumor so it can be removed more easily or so that a lumpectomy can be performed instead of a mastectomy.
Chemotherapy may also be given as the main treatment for women whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body outside of the breast and lymph nodes. This spread is known as metastatic breast cancer and occurs in a small number of women at the time of diagnosis, or when the cancer recurs some time after initial treatment for localized (non-metastatic) breast cancer.
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