Your doctor will discuss your breast cancer treatment options with you. These recommendations will take a number of considerations into account, including the kind of cancer you have, whether the cancer cells respond to hormones, the stage of the cancer's growth, its location, your overall health and your personal preferences.
As you and your family, together with your doctor, make complex treatment decisions, you may feel overwhelmed by all the choices available and decisions that need to be made. Many newly-diagnosed women find it helpful to talk to a Nurse Navigator or to other women who have faced similar decisions.
The most common and effective treatments for breast cancer include:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy: Certain drugs that attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells
- Hormone therapy: Used to treat breast cancers that are responsive to hormones, this therapy can be used after surgery to decrease the chance of your cancer returning. If the cancer has already spread, hormone therapy may shrink and help control it.
Other possible treatment options include:
Clinical trials: Clinical trials represent emerging cancer research and are used to test new and promising cancer treatments. However, being unproven, these treatments may or may not be superior to current therapies. Speak with your doctor about available clinical trials to see if one may be right for you.
Alternative therapies: No alternative medicines have been discovered which help treat breast cancer. But complementary and alternative therapies may help you manage the most common side effects of cancer treatment, especially fatigue. These therapies include gentle exercise, stress management and other relaxation strategies.
If routine exams or tests ever suggest the possibility of a recurrence of your cancer, imaging tests such as X-ray, computed tomography (CT or CAT scan), positron emission tomography (PET scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan), bone scan and/or biopsy may be ordered.
If your cancer does recur, your treatment will depend on the location of the cancer and what treatments you've had previously. Options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, drug therapy or some combination of these.