For women with early stage breast cancer, chemotherapy or hormone therapy should be considered after surgery and/or radiation. Called adjuvant therapy, it kills cancer cells that may still be in the body. It is used to prevent breast cancer from coming back or to delay its return. The choice between chemotherapy or hormone therapy depends on the patient's age, menopausal status, the results of the hormone receptor assays, and other factors. More information about adjuvant therapy is found in the NCI booklet Adjuvant Therapy: Facts for Women With Breast Cancer .
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. To treat breast cancer, the doctor usually uses a combination of two or more drugs. Anticancer drugs may be given by mouth or injected into a muscle or vein. Chemotherapy is given in cycles: a treatment period followed by a rest period, then another series of treatments, and so on.
Hormone therapy (also called antihormone therapy) keeps cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow. Drugs may be given to change the way hormones work. Or, surgery may be done to remove organs (such as the ovaries) that make hormones.
If your biopsy shows that you have breast cancer, you may want to think about entering a clinical trial. Clinical trials are carefully designed research studies to test new and promising cancer treatments. By taking part in a trial, you may be among the first patients to benefit from new treatment. Patients participate in clinical trials only if they choose to, and they are free to leave the trial at any time. Learning as much as you can about the various treatment options for breast cancer may help you decide if a clinical trial is right for you. To learn more about clinical trials, see the NCI booklet What Are Clinical Trials All About?