Treating breast cancer

There are many treatments available for breast cancer but there is no certain treatment that works better than others. Breast cancer is a very individual disease and so is the treatment of it.


In order to establish which treatment is best for you, the doctor will look at different factors such as which kind of cancer you have, what stage you're in, the size of the tumor, your age (and whether you have had your menopause) and your general health. These factors help make the right decision for your treatment. Depending on your situation, you may have one or several of the treatments available.

How is breast cancer treated?

Surgery: Most commonly patients start with surgery. There are two kinds of surgery for the breast and depending on size and position of the tumor you will be able to choose between either a lumpectomy or mastectomy. The lumpectomy preserves the breast and seeks to only remove the tumor. You will also receive radiotherapy afterwards in order to treat the rest of the breast. A mastectomy is more invasive and removes the breast, which might be necessary in some cases. Breast reconstruction is an option for women who prefer it. Usually the patient can choose the surgery they are more comfortable with, but in some cases, mastectomy is the only viable solution.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy may be used before surgery, since it can make the tumor smaller and easier to remove. It can also be used after surgery in order to decrease the chances of developing breast cancer again. The specific treatment necessary for you depends on whether you have had menopause, testing if chemo will work on you cells, the grade of your cancer cells and whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

Radiotherapy: This treatment is commonly used after a lumpectomy and seeks to destroy any remaining cancer cells. It furthermore reduces the chances of the cancer returning and  sometimes is also used after a mastectomy. Radiotherapy is given in small doses, little by little. The body tissue cannot cope with the whole dose at once, so treatment is necessary over the course of a few weeks. There is no pain connected with radiotherapy, in fact you cannot feel anything at all.

Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy is used in combination with surgery. It is used the same way as chemotherapy, to shrink the size of the tumor before surgery. It may also be used after surgery, to decrease the chances of the cancer coming back. Hormone therapy differs from chemotherapy in that it is only used for patients with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer.

Biological therapy: Specific cancers grows when stimulated by a specific protein called HER2. These cancers are called HER2 positive. Biological therapy uses substances that change normal body processes and stop the effects of HER2, and helps the immune system kill cancer cells. This treatment is offered to patients with high levels of HER2, usually after chemotherapy.

After finishing your treatment you will have to go for check ups for at least five years including getting yearly mammograms. The check ups may continue up to 10 years and are important in order to ensure that you are not having new symptoms.

Last updated: 09/09/2019

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