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Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer: When It Is Indicated?

Chemotherapy is a common option of treatment for cancers, including breast cancer. The therapy actually targets allows the medication to travel along the bloodstream and to reach the cancer cells. In case that a surgical intervention or radiation fails to remove cancer cells in difficult position, a chemotherapy can do the job. When it comes to chemotherapy for breast cancer, the therapy is expected to slow, if not stop, production of cancer cells in the breast.


In chemotherapy, anti-cancer drugs may be given intravenously or orally. As the drugs travel through the bloodstream, they target not only cancer cells in the breast but also those in other parts of the body. That is why chemotherapy is also called a systemic treatment to terminate the growth of cancer cells throughout the patient’s body.

Use of Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

Actually, not all breast cancer patients require chemotherapy. For early detected breast cancer cases, breast-conserving surgery may be enough to terminate the growth of cancer cells. However, there are certain cases, in which chemotherapy for breast cancer patients is necessary. They include the following:

Advanced-Stage Breast Cancer

In advanced breast cancer cases, chemo may the only viable option for the patients. When the cancer cells have attacked tissues inside and outside the breast and armpit areas, mastectomy may not be enough to find and kill the cancerous cells. Duration of the chemotherapy may vary, depending upon the patient’s condition. In fact, there is no guarantee that chemotherapy will be totally kill the cancerous cells and cure the disease. However, this can be the only viable option, which offers the best results for the patient’s survival.

Before the Surgery

This is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy. This type of chemotherapy for breast cancer may be indicated as an effort to shrink the size of tumor before it is removed by means of mastectomy. In this case, chemo is usually indicated for cancers, which are too big, to be removed by means of surgical intervention.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy also allows the surgeon to see how the cancer responds to the medication. In case that the first medication does not work, the doctor will find another option of medication. In the end, this treatment aims at minimizing the risk of the cancer coming back.

After the Surgery

This is called adjuvant chemotherapy. In case that mastectomy fails to kill cancer cells, which are located in difficult positions, adjuvant chemo may be necessary. Additional therapy is necessary to prevent the cancer cells from forming new tumors in different organs. Therefore, adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer aims at preventing the disease from recurring.

There are many cases, in which the cancer disease recurs even after the surgical intervention. The surgical procedures may leave some cancer cells behind, particularly those in difficult positions. As a result, the disease may come back, and chemotherapy helps in minimizing the risk.

As mentioned above, duration of the chemotherapy varies from a patient to another, depending upon many factors. They include severity of the disease, how the patient’s body reacts to the first medication regimen, the type of drugs used in the therapy, and many more.

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