There are several ways to treat breast cancer, depending on the type and stageStage:
A way of classifying breast cancer that describes how far a cancer has spread. It identifies whether breast cancer is at an early, locally advanced or metastatic stage. The stage of breast cancer can sometimes be represented as a number (e.g. between 0 and 4). of the cancer as well as other factors. Usually, two or more methods are used in combination.
Local treatment methods are applied to and take effect only in the area of the body where they are applied. Surgery and radiation therapyRadiation therapy (Sometimes called radiotherapy):
A treatment method that uses a high energy beam to destroy cancer cells by damaging the DNA of cancer cells so that they can’t continue to grow. are examples of local treatments.
Systemic treatment methods are applied to and take effect in the entire body. ChemotherapyChemotherapy:
A treatment method that uses medication to destroy cancer cells., hormone therapyHormone therapy:
A treatment method for breast cancer that uses medication to block the production of the hormone estrogen, or the way that it works in the body. and HER-2 therapyHER-2 targeted therapy:
A treatment method that uses medication to target HER-2 receptors that stimulate breast cancer growth. are systemic treatments. They are used to slow or stop cancer cellCell:
The basic structural and functional unit of all organisms. growth, to keep cancer from spreading, or to destroy cancer cells in the original tumourTumour:
An abnormal mass of tissue that occurs when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Tumours may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). A tumour is also called a neoplasm.
and that may have spread to other parts of the body.
Finding the right treatment for you
Your health care team will carefully consider the characteristics of your cancer. Using information about your condition, and drawing on their experience of treating many patients with breast cancer, they will make recommendations for your treatment plan. They may also offer you the chance to participate in a clinical trialClinical trial:
One of the most common types of experimental studies in humans is the clinical trial. Clinical trials are designed to test new ways to prevent, detect, and treat specific diseases. that explores new treatment options.
Your preferences are also important in making decisions about your treatment. Each method of treatment has benefits, limitations, risks, and side effects. For example, if you are in your child-bearing years you may have concerns about fertility. To make an informed decision about your breast cancer treatment, it is important to understand the goal of each treatment method, how it will happen, and its side effects.
One of the first questions to ask your health care team is how much time you have to make decisions before your treatment should begin. Usually you can take some time before starting treatment to learn about your options and make informed decisions about your treatment plan with your health care team.
Explore this section to learn more about:
Your health care team
Breast cancer surgery
Breast cancer recurrence