Many breast cancer medications are referred to as chemotherapy. The word chemotherapy does not refer to a specific breast cancer medication but rather a treatment tool, so you should consult your doctor about the types of drugs that will be used during your treatment. Some breast cancer medications are taken after surgical, radiation, or chemical therapies. These medications are not typically referred to as chemo, but they are used to help kill cancer cells and to prevent new cancer from developing.
Breast cancer medication is also used as a neoadjuvant therapy. This means that it is used before surgery to reduce the size of tumors, making it easier for surgeons to remove the cancer cells and tumors. Since smaller tumors often mean less surgery, it can also reduce the recuperative time patients need after surgery.
Breast cancer medication can also be used after surgery. This is called adjuvant treatment. In this situation, the breast cancer medication is used to eradicate cancer cells that the surgeon might have missed. Since cancer cells that exist outside of major tumors are often difficult to locate, the breast cancer medication sweeps away the small amounts that could not be removed during surgery.
While breast cancer medications can reduce the size of tumors, eliminate cancer cells left behind after surgery, and help prevent recurrences of the disease, they can also cause unwanted side effects. Patients in advanced stages might find it is difficult for their bodies to tolerate some of these side effects. Those taking breast cancer medications might experience nausea, weight loss, vomiting, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and incontinence. While today?s breast cancer medications usually cause fewer side effects than those used in the past, they can still be problematic for some patients.
Some breast cancer medications also increase the risks of developing other diseases. The drug tamoxifen, for instance, increases a woman?s risk of getting cataracts, uterine cancer, and blood clots that can result in stroke.
Many breast cancer patients receive chemotherapy that contains a mixture of medications. The type of breast cancer medication used often depends on the patient?s age, extent of the disease, whether she is menopausal, and what types of medication can be physically tolerated. Some patients also find they respond better to some drugs than others. The reason some patients react better to certain drugs is not well understood, so it may take your doctor some time to determine which regimen is right for you.
Before you begin taking breast cancer medication, you should talk to your doctor about what you can expect from the drugs. While this website offers general information about drugs that are used to treat breast cancer, you should always rely on a doctor to give you a personalized evaluation for your treatment.