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Treating Breast Cancer: Adjuvant Therapy

If you have breast cancer, you will have many treatment options. Before you decide which is best for you, weigh all of your choices. And discuss them with your doctor. Your options may include one or more types of adjuvant therapy. These are treatments used in addition to surgery.

Talk with your healthcare team or support network for more information about these treatments and your options.

Radiation Therapy

Technician and patient

This treatment uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. Most often, it is used to kill cancer cells that may remain in the breast after surgery. Radiation also helps keep breast cancer from coming back. You’ll likely have this treatment if you had a lumpectomy.

Chemotherapy

Technician and patient

This treatment is a type of medication that attacks cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given before or after surgery. Or, it may be given on its own. It’s also used to help keep breast cancer from coming back. Your healthcare provider will decide if chemotherapy is right for you. Factors include the size of your tumor and where it has spread.

Hormone Therapy

Technician and patient

Hormone therapy is used when cancer cells respond to estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones are normally made by the body. With cancer, the hormones bind to special sites called receptors on the cancer cells. This causes them to grow into tumors. To treat these types of tumors, two kinds of medications may be used.

  • Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). These bind to cancer cells and stop the cells from dividing.

  • Aromatase inhibitors. These reduce the body’s production of estrogen. With less estrogen to bind with, cancer cells are less likely to grow.

Online Medical Reviewer: Song, David H, MD
Last Review Date: 12/28/2011
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