Breast cancer chemotherapy uses drugs to target breast cancer cells and destroys them via medications that are usually given directly into a vein or oral tablets. Hormone therapy is a medication that prevents the effect of estrogen on breast cancer cells, also called endocrine therapy.
Systemic treatments of breast cancer:
Systemic treatments are identified as drugs that could be used to treat breast cancer almost anywhere in the body, they can enter cancer cells.
They can be administered by mouth or put into the bloodstream directly. Different approaches to drug therapy could be used depending on the type of breast cancer, including:
Breast Cancer Chemotherapy:
Chemotherapy (chemo) uses anti-cancer medications that can be administered by mouth or intravenously (injected into the vein).
The drugs pass through the bloodstream in most areas of the body to reach cancer cells. Chemo can sometimes be delivered directly into the spinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
When is chemotherapy used?
Chemo may not be needed for all women with breast cancer, but there are some conditions in which chemo can be recommended:
After surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy):
Adjuvant chemo can be provided to try to destroy any cancer cells that may have been left behind or spread, but can not be seen on imaging scans. If these cells were allowed to grow, they could develop new tumors in other places in the body.
Before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy):
To try to shrink the tumor, neoadjuvant chemo may be given so that it can be removed with less intensive surgery.
If there are tumor cells still found at the time of surgery (also called residual disease) for some forms of breast cancer, you could be given more chemotherapy following surgery to minimize the risk of cancer coming back (recurrence).
For advanced breast cancer:
Chemo can be used as the primary therapy for women whose cancer has spread beyond the area of the breast and lower arms, either when diagnosed or after initial treatment.
Tests, such as Oncotype DX, are available that can help decide which women are most likely to benefit from chemo after breast surgery.
Chemotherapy medications that are used for breast cancer:
Combinations of 2 or 3 of these drugs are most commonly used. In most cases, where combinations of drugs are used, chemo is the most efficient.
While drug combinations are often used to treat early breast cancer, single chemo drugs are more often used to treat advanced breast cancer. Still, some combinations are widely used to treat advanced breast cancer, such as paclitaxel + gemcitabine.
How is chemotherapy administered?
In most cases, breast cancer chemotherapy drugs could be given in a vein (IV), either as an injection for a few minutes or as an infusion for a longer time. This can be achieved in the office of a doctor, an infusion center, or the atmosphere of a hospital.
Chemo is administered in cycles to allow you time to recover from the effects of the medications, followed by a rest period. Most commonly, periods are 2 to 3 weeks long. Depending on the medications used, the schedule varies.
Doctors also found that putting these chemo drug cycles closer together can minimize the risk of cancer coming back and increase survival for certain women.
Most common side effects of chemotherapy:
Side effects can be triggered by chemo medications. These depend on the form and dosage of medications administered, as well as the duration of treatment. Some of the most common side effects that likely include:
Loss of hair
Sores of the Mouth
Loss of appetite or changes in weight
Dizziness and vomiting
Stopping of menstrual periods
Chemo can also affect the bone marrow's blood-forming cells, which can contribute to:
-Increased risk of infections (from low numbers of white blood cells).
-bleeding or bruising (from low platelet counts in your blood).
-Fatigue (from low numbers of red blood cells and other reasons).
After treatment is over, these side effects typically go away.
Breast cancer hormonal therapy:
Some forms of breast cancer are affected by hormones i.e. estrogen and progesterone. Breast cancer cells have receptors that can bind to estrogen and progesterone which help them to develop.
These cancer types are ER-positive (estrogen receptor-positive) and PR positive (progesterone receptor-positive).
Treatments that prevent these hormones from binding to these receptors are called endocrine therapy or hormone treatment.
Almost anywhere in the body and not just in the breast, hormone therapy can enter cancer cells. It is recommended for women with tumors that are positive for hormone receptors. Women whose tumors do not have hormone receptors are not supported by this.
When is hormone treatment administrated?
Hormone therapy is also used (as adjuvant therapy) following surgery to help reduce the risk of recurrence of cancer. It is also begun (as neoadjuvant therapy) before surgery. It is typically taken for 5 to 10 years or more.
These drugs function by preventing estrogen from fueling breast cancer cells to develop.
Treatments that reduce the levels of estrogen:
lowering the estrogen level will help delay cancer's growth or help prevent it from coming back.
you could be given aromatase inhibitors if you have undergone menopause.
Aromatase inhibitors (AIs):
stop fat tissue from making estrogen after menopause.
These drugs are pills taken daily.
Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) analogs:
Shuts down the ovaries which are the main source of estrogen.
Please, note that distance from the causes of breast cancer and frequent follow-up help to prevent many breast cancer issues.
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