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Breast Cancer Chemotherapy: What it is & how it works.

What Is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is probably the type of treatment(TREET-MINT) — Techniques to help eliminate or control a disease in which you are most familiar. Since so many different classes of medications and so many different types of anticancer treatment exist, all the remaining have been lumped together into the category of “chemotherapy.”

In general, chemotherapy attacks many different parts of cells to stop cancer cells from growing. This is kind of like how all cars have engines, but they may be powered by different fuel. While some medications may affect the fuel, chemotherapy attacks the engine itself or other parts that all cars have.

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The problem is that both normal cells and cancer cells have these same parts. Chemotherapy can affect many cells throughout the body, including normal cells. It is not as selective in regards to the cells it attacks. This may lead to more side effects compared to hormonal(HORE-MOAN-OL THAIR-AH-PEE) — Anticancer medication used to target estrogen and progesterone receptors and targeted therapy(TAR-GET-TED THAIR-AH-PEE) — Anticancer medication that attaches to a specific protein receptor and blocks the receptor’s normal function. But the benefit of chemotherapy is that it can work fast to shrink and kill cancers.

Why Might It Be Recommended?

Why and when chemotherapy is recommended varies greatly depending on the situation. However, chemotherapy is commonly used before and after surgery(SIR-JER-REE) — Physical removal of a tumor. Chemotherapy is given before surgery to try and shrink a cancer. This allows a patient to have a smaller surgery (lumpectomy(LUMP-EC-TOE-ME) — Removal of only a breast tumor with a small amount of normal breast tissue instead of mastectomy(MAS-TEC-TOE-ME) — The surgical removal of all breast tissue and some axillary lymph nodes). If a patient has a high risk(HI RESK) — More likely to develop breast cancer for her cancer to return, chemotherapy after surgery is recommended to try to kill any remaining breast cancer cells and prevent the breast cancer from recurring. High-risk patients can include those with lymph node involvement(LIMFF NODE IN-VOLV-MINT) — Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes or a high recurrence(REE-CER-ENCE) — When a cancer returns or comes back score on an Oncotype Dx(ON-CO-TYPE D-X) — A complex test that evaluates many genes to estimate a patient’s chance of recurrence® test (or equivalent predictive risk assessment test).

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Additionally, patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC)(TRIP-OL NEG-AH-TIV BREST CAN-SIR) — Breast cancer that lacks estrogen, progesterone, and HER2/neu receptors are not eligible for other types of treatment (like hormonal therapy), so chemotherapy is usually recommended as the best option. It is also used to treat recurrent breast cancer(REE-CER-ENT BRE-ST CAN-SIR) — The return of breast cancer after a period of time following initial diagnosis.

How Is It Given?

The schedule, doses, and length of treatment depend on where a patient is in her journey. Chemotherapy before or after surgery is commonly given for several months. However, chemotherapy for metastatic disease(MET-AH-STAT-IK DUH-ZEEZ) — Disease that has spread throughout the body through the bloodstream (spread disease) can be given for much longer periods of time. It is very common for multiple chemotherapy medications to be combined. This helps increase the chances a cancer will shrink, especially because some drugs work better together than alone. Chemotherapy can also be combined with hormonal therapy and targeted therapy to increase the chances of it working.

Chemotherapy can be administered orally with pills, but it’s more commonly administered through IV infusionsMedication injected into the vein; intravenous.

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