Chemotherapy is a common treatment for breast cancer. Patients with early-stage breast cancers often receive a combination of medications, while patients with more extensive tumors are often treated with a single-drug approach. A patients whose tumor is found to be hormone-receptive might receive a targeted medication known as Herceptin along with chemotherapy to potentially improve their outcome. Regardless the stage or hormone-receptive status of a patient’s cancer, however, chemotherapy is most effective when a patient’s prescription is tailored to his or her needs.
Chemotherapy works by destroying rapidly dividing cells. This mean that cancerous cells, which multiply very quickly, are attacked by powerful drugs. Once the cells die off, they are disposed of by the body’s immune system. While chemotherapy can effectively destroy cancerous cells, it can also affect few types of normal cells (e.g., hair follicles and the cells that line the intestines) as well.
Although healthy cells often grow back after chemotherapy, the temporary damage they sustain can lead to a number of side effects. For example, many patients experience hair loss, nausea and fatigue during chemotherapy. Medications and other forms of supportive care can be provided to help manage these complications.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we offer a comprehensive range of chemotherapy medications for breast cancer, along with targeted therapies and other advanced treatments, at all locations. Each patient’s treatment plan is individualized by a multispecialty team of medical specialists, including:
- Medical oncologists, who can determine the best possible medications to prescribe
- Radiation oncologists, who can determine if radiation therapy would help destroy additional cancer cells
- Surgeons, who can determine if an operation should be performed before or after chemotherapy, or if chemo should be the patient’s primary form of treatment
- Radiologists, who can review a patient’s imaging scans throughout the course of his or her treatment to determine how well the tumors are responding to the selected drugs
- Supportive care specialists, who can help the patient manage any side effects that might arise