Chemotherapy is often recommended for treating triple negative breast cancer. Unlike most other types of breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer does not respond to the presence of certain hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, nor does it have an abnormally high level of HER2 receptors. Therefore, hormone therapy is largely ineffective for treatment purposes. Nevertheless, triple negative breast cancer often responds very well to chemotherapy.
Depending on when chemo is administered, its goals can vary. For instance, chemotherapy may be recommended prior to surgery to attempt to destroy rapidly dividing cancer cells. In this way, it may be possible to shrink tumors and make them easier to remove, which can increase the likelihood of a successful surgical outcome. Additionally, because it is not always possible for a surgeon to completely remove a patient’s cancer, chemotherapy may be recommended after surgery to target any remaining cancer cells and help prevent spread and recurrence. Alternatively, chemo can be used as a primary form of treatment to control the growth and ease the symptoms of large tumors that cannot be surgically removed.
As a systemic form of treatment, chemotherapy is effective because it can potentially reach and destroy cancer cells located throughout a patient’s body. To do so, the chemo drugs travel through the patient’s bloodstream. In general, the chemotherapy drugs used for treating triple negative breast cancer can be delivered in several ways, including:
Infused into a vein through an intravenous (IV) drip
Injected by needle into a vein or muscle
Taken by mouth in pill or capsule form
Swallowed in liquid form
Typically, a patient will receive chemotherapy in cycles, with each treatment session followed by one or more days with no chemo to allow the patient’s body time to recover from any side effects. Treatment is usually completed over the course of three to six months, and may be repeated if necessary; for instance, a physician might recommend an additional course of chemotherapy several months or years after the initial treatment if a patient experiences a cancer recurrence.
The multispecialty experts in the renowned Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program at Moffitt Cancer Center work closely with each patient to collaboratively develop an individualized treatment plan and determine the most appropriate chemotherapy drug or drug combination, dosage and delivery schedule. Additionally, female patients of childbearing age can take comfort in knowing that our breast cancer oncologists are also fertility experts who can take appropriate measures to enhance their quality of life.
Chemotherapy for triple negative breast cancer is available at all Moffitt locations. If you’d like to learn more, we provide consultations with or without referrals. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.