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How Chemotherapy Works To Combat Breast Cancer

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When a patient diagnosed with breast cancer or other forms of cancer first hears about their diagnosis they often worry about if they will need chemotherapy and if so how hard will that chemotherapy be upon their bodies.

When breast cancer chemotherapy is used it is designed to destroy or weaken the cancer cells present in the breast. Chemotherapy breast cancer treatment is often the treatment of choice. Breast cancer chemotherapy can be used at the original site of the cancer cells or when the breast cancer has spread to other areas of the body. Chemotherapy is known as a systematic treatment because it enters the bloodstream and therefore affects the entire body.


There are a number of different chemotherapy drugs used to kill the cancer cells.

Chemotherapy may be used prior to surgery to shrink the cancer growth.

Chemotherapy will be used in the early stages of breast cancer to kill off any remaining cancer cells, which could be not taken out at the time of surgery.

Chemotherapy is also used in advanced stage breast cancer to destroy as many spreading cancer cells as possible.

Chemotherapy as a breast cancer treatment is uniquely designed to cater to the type of cancer, stage of cancer, and the medical particulars of the breast cancer patient. For example, when the woman is menopausal, and what other treatments and medications she is or has been taking for cancer or other medical conditions.

Though each person’s particular plan will differ there are some universal guidelines:

Breast cancer chemotherapy will be opted for if the cancer has entered the lymph nodes Chemotherapy is then necessary to counteract the threat of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body.

Chemotherapy is recommended as a breast cancer treatment for women who are premenopausal because the breast cancer is more aggressive. Chemotherapy is recommended as an invasive breast cancer treatment.

Chemotherapy may be selected for certain women who are in early stage breast cancer that is hormone-receptor-negative, and HER2-positive. Both of these types of cancers are aggressive.

Chemotherapy is not recommended for non-evasive breast cancer where there is no risk of spreading to other parts of the body.

Chemotherapy medicines:

Abraham (palliate), doily (doxorubicin), Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Ellence (epirubicin), Carboplatin (parplatin), Fluoruracil also manufactured as 5-fluorourcil or 5-FU (Adrucil), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Gemzar (gemcitabine), Daunorubicin (Cerubidine, DaunXome), Ixempra (ixabepilone), Xeloda (capecitabine), Methotrexate (Amethopterin, Mexae, Folex), Vincristine (Oncovin, Vincasar PES, Vincrex), Mitomycin (mutamycin), Thiotepa (Thioplex), Mitoxantrone (Novantrone), Taxotere (docetaxel), Navelbine (vinorelbine) and Taxol (paclitaxel).

Chemotherapy medications are often used in combination so you are getting at least two or three of the drugs at the same time. The combinations are called chemotherapy regimens and they are often used in early stages of breast cancer. These chemotherapy regimens lower the risk for the breast cancer coming back. In the advanced stages of disease, these regimens can shrink the cancer or make it disappear in any anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the cases.

Most chemotherapy regimens include a medication from one or both of the following groups:

Antrhracyclines are quite similar to an antibiotic. They attack the genetic material of the cancer cells causing the cells to die. The medications include: Ellence, Adriamycin and Daunourbicin.

The other group of medications is Taxanes and they will interfere with the way that the cancer cells divide and multiply. These medications include: Taxol, Taxotere, and Abraxane.

Talk to your doctor about your chemotherapy regimen. You may be given the form of a small injection in the hand or arm or you may be given pill form. Your doctor and oncology nurse are there to assist you through it.

If you are experiencing any side affects from the medication make sure you let your doctor know about it. These side affects could include: mouth sores, chronic nausea, diarrhea or fever, hair and nail changes, nerve damage, menopause or menopausal symptoms, taste and smell changes, vaginal dryness, fatigue, infection, osteoporosis, vision problems, heart problems, weight loss, and memory loss. Most cancer centers have someone 24 hours a day to answer your questions or concerns.

Finally talk out all your fears and concerns with your doctor who can help you get through this phase in your life.

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