Skip to content

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Assessing New Treatments for Breast Cancer

Heard about a new breast cancer treatment but not sure if it's right for you? These guidelines will help.
By
WebMD Feature

Looking for the latest on breast cancer treatments? Be ready for a flood of data. News about breast cancer treatments makes headlines. So if you search for "breast cancer drug" in the news section of Google alone, you'll get more than 1,000 results -- and these are just news articles posted within the last several weeks. But how do you sort through the mountains of information to tell if a new breast cancer therapy is right for you, right now?

  • Read news articles with a skeptical eye. There are caveats in any breaking story about a new breast cancer treatment. Keep an eye out for these details:

    • Does the story say how large the trial of the new treatment was? (If it only involved a couple of dozen patients, much larger studies will likely be needed to confirm any results.)
    • Does it mention what type of breast cancer was involved -- early stage or late stage, hormone-receptor positive or hormone-receptor negative?
    • Has the new treatment been approved by the FDA, or is it still in clinical trials?

  • Know your pathology report. Is your cancer hormone-receptor positive or negative? Are you HER2neu positive or negative? Does your cancer have lymph-node involvement or not?

    New therapies are often targeted at a specific type of breast cancer. Knowing about these and other factors in your own case can help you tell if a new breast cancer treatment option is likely to be an option for you.

  • Consider the source. Do you know where the new research comes from? Major, peer-reviewed medical journals, such as The New England Journal of Medicine or the Journal of Clinical Oncology, are good sources. So are the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. If the only source of the information appears to be a company pushing a new drug, herbal remedy, or other treatment, be wary.

  • Try to get a copy of the study itself. A short, headline-grabbing news articles about the study isn't going to tell you enough. You can search Medline and other databases of medical journals online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Literature/index.html, or go to a nearby medical school's library to review copies of medical journals.

    If you can't get a copy or if the science-speak is too hard to read, visit www.breastcancer.org and check out the "Research News and Ask the Experts" section. You'll find a monthly research update on new breast cancer studies that breaks down the information into easy-to-read messages.

  • Take the study to your doctor. Gather your notes and write down questions for the next time you meet with your oncologist. Your doctor should welcome your questions and be willing to talk about the new study with you.

Recommended Related to Breast Cancer

Soy and Breast Cancer: What's the Link?

To be safe, Jennifer Mukai all but eliminated soy from her diet after being told she had breast cancer in May 2009. Being of Japanese descent and also health conscious, the Seattle interior designer says she was eating a lot of soy in various forms before her diagnosis. “I drank about three-quarters of a cup of soy milk in my coffee twice a day and ate tofu and edamame [soy beans] pretty regularly,” the 44-year-old tells WebMD. “I was also probably getting quite a bit of soy in the meat-substitute...

Read the Soy and Breast Cancer: What's the Link? article > >

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
 
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
 
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW