Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Select An Article

Breast Cancer Treatment

Font Size
A
A
A

Breast cancer treatments are getting better all the time, and people have many more options today than ever before. With so many choices, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about the ones that can help you the most.

No matter which ones you choose, all breast cancer treatments have two main goals:

Recommended Related to Breast Cancer

General Information About Breast Cancer Treatment and Pregnancy

Incidence Breast cancer is the most common cancer in pregnant and postpartum women and occurs in about 1 in 3,000 pregnant women. The average patient is between 32 to 38 years of age and because many women choose to delay childbearing, it is likely that the incidence of breast cancer during pregnancy will increase. Pathology Breast cancer pathology is similar in age-matched pregnant and nonpregnant women. Hormone receptor assays are usually negative in pregnant breast cancer...

Read the General Information About Breast Cancer Treatment and Pregnancy article > >

  1. To rid the body of as much of the cancer as possible
  2. To prevent the disease from coming back

How Do I Know Which Breast Cancer Treatment to Choose?

Your doctor will think about a few things before she recommends a treatment for you:

  • The type of breast cancer you have
  • The size of your tumor and how far the cancer has spread in your body, called the stage of your disease
  • If your tumor has things called "receptors" for HER2 protein, estrogen, and progesterone, or other specific features.

Your age, if you’ve gone through menopause, other health conditions you have, and your personal preferences also play a role in this decision-making process.

What Are the Types of Breast Cancer Treatment?

Some treatments remove or destroy the disease within the breast and nearby tissues, such as lymph nodes. These include:

  • Surgery to remove the whole breast, called a mastectomy, or to remove just the tumor and tissues around it, called a lumpectomy or breast-conserving surgery. There are different types of mastectomies and lumpectomies.
  • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy waves to kill cancer cells.

Other treatments destroy or control cancer cells all over the body:

  • Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. As these powerful medicines fight the disease, they also can cause side effects, like nausea, hair loss, early menopause, hot flashes, and fatigue.
  • Hormone therapy uses drugs to prevent hormones, especially estrogen, from fueling the growth of breast cancer cells. Medicines include tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Soltamox) for women before and after menopause and anastrozole (Arimidex), exemestane (Aromasin), and letrozole (Femara) for postmenopausal women. Side effects can include hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Some types of this therapy work by stopping the ovaries from making hormones, either through surgery or medication.
  • Targeted therapy such as lapatinib (Tykerb), pertuzumab (Perjeta), and trastuzumab (Herceptin). These medicines prompt the body's immune system to destroy cancer. They target breast cancer cells that have high levels of a protein called HER2. Palbociclib (Ibrance) works by blocking a molecule that promotes cancer growth. Along with letrozole, palbociclib  is for postmenopausal women with certain types of advanced cancer.

You might get chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or targeted therapy along with surgery or radiation. They can kill any cancer cells that were left behind by other treatments.

Next 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