Medical Treatment for Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy, Hormone Therapy and Targeted Therapy for Early Stage Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy, targeted therapies and hormone therapy often are combined with surgery and radiation to treat breast cancer, which is why medical oncologists at Duke work closely with breast surgeons, radiation oncologists, and other breast cancer specialists. Our breast cancer doctors in Durham and Raleigh use the latest medical therapies available to treat your breast cancer and reduce the risk of recurrence.
Determining the Right Breast Cancer Treatment for You
Multiple factors go into determining the right breast cancer treatment for your condition. These factors include the size of your tumor and the stage and type of breast cancer you have, an assessment of the genes that may be associated with your cancer, your age, whether cancer has spread to other parts of your body and your risk of recurrence. Tests will determine if your breast cancer is hormone-receptor-positive, triple-negative breast cancer or HER2-positive (containing the HER2 protein, which promotes cancer growth)
The sequence of treatments is determined by the treatment team and can include a lumpectomy or mastectomy, medical, and radiation treatment. Medical treatments can include chemotherapy, hormone therapy that blocks hormones such as estrogen or progesterone, which promote the growth of cancer cells, and targeted therapies which tell the body’s immune system to target and destroy certain breast cancer cells.
Your medical oncologist will help you weigh the pros and cons of each treatment option to help guide your decision.
Choosing Where to Receive Your Medical Treatment for Breast Cancer
When choosing a doctor and hospital for your breast cancer treatment, it’s important to consider the doctor’s depth and breadth of experience, as well as the overall care you will receive.
- At Duke, we offer a team approach to breast cancer care. Your medical treatments will be overseen by a board-certified medical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer and works closely with a team of specialists and care givers, including the infusion therapists who administer your treatments.
- Having a cancer center near your work or home will minimize the impact your breast cancer treatment has on your daily life. Our breast cancer centers in Durham and Raleigh are close to your home and work. We do everything we can to schedule breast imaging appointments, and visits with your breast surgeon, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist on the same day.
- Chemotherapy can affect fertility. Patients who hope to have children in the future may be referred to the Duke Fertility Center to discuss fertility preservation. Women may undergo egg harvesting, followed by egg or embryo freezing (cryopreservation) prior to chemotherapy or radiation to preserve their fertility options as they age.
- Clinical trials also give access to eligible breast cancer patients to new therapies before they are approved. You may be eligible to participate in our breast cancer clinical trials, which are using new vaccines to treat different types of breast cancer, including early stage breast cancer and HER2-positive breast cancer.
MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR BREAST CANCER
Kills breast cancer cells and may reduce the risk of your cancer recurring. Useful for both early stage and advanced cancers, chemotherapy is given intravenously and may cause side effects such as nausea, hair loss, fatigue and difficulty with concentration and memory.
Reduces the level of estrogen in the body and/or prevents estrogen from promoting the growth of cancer cells. Used to treat hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers including triple-negative breast cancer. Typically taken in pill form and used long term, as well as surgical or medical procedures to induce menopause. Common drugs include Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors.
Combined with other therapies, these treatments work on specific growth factors in the cancer and boost the immune system’s ability to fight cancer cells. Administered intravenously, these monoclonal antibodies may be effective for fast-growing and aggressive HER2-positive cancers. Common drugs include Herceptin and Perjeta.
Given primarily to patients undergoing hormone therapy. Helps prevent bone loss and may prevent recurrence of cancer. Common drugs include Zometa and Prolia.