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If your cancer has a high risk of returning or spreading to another part of your body, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy after surgery to decrease the chance that the cancer will recur. Chemotherapy is sometimes given before surgery in women with larger breast tumors. The goal is to shrink a tumor to a size that makes it easier to remove with surgery.

'Make a clean breast of it' - meaning and origin.

Chemotherapy is also used in women whose cancer has already spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy may be recommended to try to control the cancer and decrease any symptoms the cancer is causing. Chemotherapy side effects depend on the drugs you receive. Common side effects include hair loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and an increased risk of developing an infection. Rare side effects can include premature menopause, infertility if premenopausal , damage to the heart and kidneys, nerve damage, and, very rarely, blood cell cancer.

Hormone therapy — perhaps more properly termed hormone-blocking therapy — is used to treat breast cancers that are sensitive to hormones. Doctors refer to these cancers as estrogen receptor positive ER positive and progesterone receptor positive PR positive cancers. Hormone therapy can be used before or after surgery or other treatments to decrease the chance of your cancer returning.

If the cancer has already spread, hormone therapy may shrink and control it. Hormone therapy side effects depend on your specific treatment, but may include hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. More serious side effects include a risk of bone thinning and blood clots. Targeted drug treatments attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells. As an example, several targeted therapy drugs focus on a protein that some breast cancer cells overproduce called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 HER2. The protein helps breast cancer cells grow and survive. By targeting cells that make too much HER2, the drugs can damage cancer cells while sparing healthy cells.

Targeted therapy drugs that focus on other abnormalities within cancer cells are available. And targeted therapy is an active area of cancer research. Your cancer cells may be tested to see whether you might benefit from targeted therapy drugs.


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Some medications are used after surgery to reduce the risk that the cancer will return. Others are used in cases of advanced breast cancer to slow the growth of the tumor. Immunotherapy uses your immune system to fight cancer. Your body's disease-fighting immune system may not attack your cancer because the cancer cells produce proteins that blind the immune system cells. Immunotherapy works by interfering with that process.

Surgery to remove breast cancer

Immunotherapy might be an option if you have triple-negative breast cancer, which means that the cancer cells don't have receptors for estrogen, progesterone or HER2. For triple-negative breast cancer, immunotherapy is combined with chemotherapy to treat advanced cancer that's spread to other parts of the body. Palliative care is specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness. Palliative care specialists work with you, your family and your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support that complements your ongoing care.

Palliative care can be used while undergoing other aggressive treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. When palliative care is used along with all of the other appropriate treatments, people with cancer may feel better and live longer. Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other specially trained professionals. Palliative care teams aim to improve the quality of life for people with cancer and their families.

This form of care is offered alongside curative or other treatments you may be receiving. Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease. No alternative medicine treatments have been found to cure breast cancer. But complementary and alternative medicine therapies may help you cope with side effects of treatment when combined with your doctor's care. Many breast cancer survivors experience fatigue during and after treatment that can continue for years. When combined with your doctor's care, complementary and alternative medicine therapies may help relieve fatigue.

A breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. And just when you're trying to cope with the shock and the fears about your future, you're asked to make important decisions about your treatment. Every person finds his or her own way of coping with a cancer diagnosis. Until you find what works for you, it might help to:. Learn enough about your breast cancer to make decisions about your care.

If you'd like to know more about your breast cancer, ask your doctor for the details of your cancer — the type, stage and hormone receptor status. Ask for good sources of up-to-date information on your treatment options. Knowing more about your cancer and your options may help you feel more confident when making treatment decisions.

Still, some women may not want to know the details of their cancer. If this is how you feel, let your doctor know that, too. Keep your friends and family close. Your friends and family can provide a crucial support network for you during your cancer treatment. As you begin telling people about your breast cancer diagnosis, you'll likely get many offers for help.

Think ahead about things you may want assistance with, whether it's having someone to talk to if you're feeling low or getting help preparing meals.


  • Breast cancer - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic;
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  • Women with breast cancer may have appointments with their primary care doctors as well as several other doctors and health professionals, including:. Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For breast cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:. In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions that may occur to you during your appointment.

    Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:. Breast cancer care at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission. This content does not have an English version. This content does not have an Arabic version. Diagnosis Diagnosing breast cancer.

    Surgery to remove nearby lymph nodes

    Core needle biopsy A core needle biopsy uses a long, hollow tube to extract a sample of tissue. Lumpectomy A lumpectomy involves removing the cancer and some of the healthy tissue that surrounds it. Mastectomy During a total simple mastectomy, the surgeon removes the breast tissue, nipple, areola and skin.

    Sentinel node biopsy Sentinel node biopsy identifies the first few lymph nodes into which a tumor drains. Radiation therapy External beam radiation uses high-powered beams of energy to kill cancer cells. Gene expression profiling for breast cancer: What is it? Brachytherapy Breast cancer supportive therapy and survivorship Breast cancer surgery Chemotherapy Chemotherapy for breast cancer Hormone therapy for breast cancer Lumpectomy Mastectomy Precision medicine for breast cancer Radiation therapy Radiation therapy for breast cancer Paulas story A team approach to battling breast cancer Infographic: Breast Reconstruction Options Show more related information.

    Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic. Share on: Facebook Twitter. Show references AskMayoExpert. Breast cancer. Rochester, Minn. Fort Washington, Pa. Accessed June 28, Townsend CM Jr, et al. Diseases of the breast. Philadelphia, Pa. Leading new cancer cases and deaths — estimates. American Cancer Society. Accessed June 29, Warner KJ. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 21, Breast reconstruction. What you need to know about breast cancer.

    How to choose a breast pump

    National Cancer Institute. Breast cancer risk assessment and screening in average-risk women. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Palliative care. And the implants can rupture or break, cause pain and scar tissue around the implant, or get infected. They have also been rarely linked to other types of cancer.