Breast cancer is treated in several ways. It depends on the kind of breast cancer and how far it has spread. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biologic therapy, and radiation. People with breast cancer often get more than one kind of treatment.
- Surgery. An operation where doctors cut out and remove cancer tissue.
- Chemotherapy. Using special medicines, or drugs to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given through an intravenous (IV) tube, or, sometimes, both.
- Hormonal therapy. Some cancers need certain hormones to grow. Hormonal treatment is used to block cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
- Biological therapy. This treatment works with your body's immune system to help it fight cancer or to control side effects from other cancer treatments. Side effects are how your body reacts to drugs or other treatments. Biological therapy is different from chemotherapy, which attacks cancer cells directly.
- Radiation. The use of high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer cells. The rays are aimed at the part of the body where the cancer is located.
It is common for doctors from different specialties to work together in treating breast cancer. Surgeons are doctors that perform operations. Medical oncologists are doctors that treat cancers with medicines. Radiation oncologists are doctors that treat cancers with radiation.
If you have breast cancer, you may want to take part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are research studies that help find new treatment options.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Complementary medicine is a group of medicines and practices that may be used in addition to the standard treatments for cancer. Alternative medicine means practices or medicines that are used instead of the usual, or standard, ways of treating cancer. Examples of complementary and alternative medicine are meditation, yoga, and dietary supplements like vitamins and herbs.
Complementary and alternative medicine does not treat breast cancer, but may help lessen the side effects of the cancer treatments or of the cancer symptoms. It is important to note that many forms of complementary and alternative medicines have not been scientifically tested and may not be safe. Talk to your doctor before you start any kind of complementary or alternative medicine.
Which Treatment is Right for Me?
Choosing which kind of treatment is right for you may be hard. If you have breast cancer, be sure to talk to your doctor about the treatment options available for your type and stage of cancer. Doctors can explain the risks and benefits of each treatment and their side effects.
Sometimes people get an opinion from more than one breast cancer doctor. This is called a second opinion. Getting a second opinion may help you choose the treatment option that is right for you.