While standard protocols have been established for the treatment of virtually all cancers, physicians will often modify them for individual patients. These modifications are based on many factors including the patient’s age, general health, desired results, and the specific characteristics of his or her cancer. Since the treatments described in this report represent the standard therapeutic approaches, your physician may not strictly adhere to them.

Types of Treatment

The primary methods of treatment for breast cancer include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and immunotherapy.

Treatment by Stage

The type of breast cancer treatment you receive will be largely determined by the stage of your cancer, its hormonal sensitivity, and the overproduction of a protein called Her2/neu. Although you and your doctor will decide which type of treatment is best for your own condition, the following are the most common standards of treatment:

Stages I and II

These two stages are usually treated with a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and adjuvant therapy, which, in this case, refers to chemotherapy and/or hormone therapy after surgery. In many cases surgery precedes other treatment. More often, chemotherapy or hormonal therapy may be given before surgery, as part of “neoadjuvant” treatment.

Stage III

Most often Stage III cancer begins with systemic therapy, such as chemotherapy, followed by surgery, hormonal therapy, and radiation treatment.

Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS and LCIS)

DCIS is treated with either total mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery plus radiation.

LCIS does not warrant complete treatment by surgery or radiation, and is usually managed by careful monitoring. However, in some cases, women who may be at high risk for developing invasive breast cancer may choose to preemptively treat LCIS with tamoxifen, or after careful discussion, may choose to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. This is the removal of both breasts in order to prevent cancer from developing in the breasts.You and your doctor can determine what the best option is for your unique condition.

Select a topic below for a thorough discussion of each breast cancer treatment option:
Surgery
Radiation therapy
Chemotherapy
Hormonal therapies
Other treatments: biologic therapy (Herceptin)
Lifestyle changes
Managing the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment


Existing treatment protocols have been established and continue to be modified through clinical trials. These research studies are essential to determine whether or not new treatments are both safe and effective. Since highly effective treatments for many cancers remain unknown, numerous clinical trials are always underway around the world. You may wish to ask your doctor if you should consider participating in a clinical trial. You can find out about clinical trials at the government website ClinicalTrials.gov .