Treating the Whole Body
- Department of:
- Adena Regional Medical Center
While surgery and precise radiation are used to treat breast cancer that is small and contained, when cancer spreads into the lymph nodes or other parts of the body, other therapies are needed. That’s when “systemic treatments” are used. Systemic treatments are medications that treat cancer throughout the whole body.
There are three main kinds of systemic treatments:
- Chemotherapy. These drugs are designed to attack and kill the cancer cells.
- Biological Therapy. These medications work with your immune system to help it fight cancer — and in some cases, to help it fight the side-effects of other treatments.
- Hormone Therapy. These drugs can help block the hormone estrogen that fuels the growth of some breast cancers.
Because every patient is different, there are many different treatment plans, which are based on the type of cancer, the size of the tumor, and whether the cancer has spread beyond the breast. Determining the size and location of the cancer is referred to as staging.
Providing the best and most advancements available, Adena follows the breast cancer treatment guidelines put forth by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). These guidelines spell out the recommendations for treatment based on cancer type and stage.
For example, some women might have a chemotherapy treatment before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to kill any lingering cancer cells and prevent the cancer from coming back. Others might need chemotherapy before radiation.
Women with hormone receptor-positive cancer will likely be treated with a hormone therapy like Tamoxifen. The biological drug Trastuzumab, a monoclonal antibody, is used to treat metastatic breast cancer (breast cancer that has spread) that is HER-2 positive. HER-2 is a protein that causes breast cells to reproduce.
The first step is to understand the tumor itself — where it is in the breast, how large it is and whether it’s spread. Then, you and your physician will discuss the treatment options — from chemotherapy to biological treatments to surgery — so that together you can develop an individualized treatment plan.