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

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

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

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • 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

Font Size

6-Month Chemo Best for Early Breast Cancer

Study Shows Benefits of a Sequential Chemotherapy Regimen That Lasts 24 Weeks
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 3, 2010 -- A six-month chemotherapy regimen improves overall and disease-free survival among women with early breast cancer and lymph node involvement, when compared with two shorter regimens, a study shows.

The study is published in the June 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Sandra M. Swain, MD, at the Washington Cancer Institute at Washington Hospital Center, and colleagues compared three chemotherapy regimens among 5,351 women with lymph-node positive early-stage breast cancer.

The three chemotherapy regimens were:

  • A 12-week, four-cycle regimen of doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and docetaxel.
  • A 12-week, four-cycle regimen of doxorubicin and docetaxel.
  • A 24-week, regimen in which four cycles of doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide were given over the first 12 weeks, followed by four cycles of docetaxel alone the second 12 weeks.

Women who received the 24-week sequential chemotherapy regimen were more likely to survive than women given the other two chemotherapy regimens, the study showed. The 24-week sequential therapy also resulted in gains in disease-free survival when compared to the other two chemotherapy regimens.

The study shows that women who developed chemotherapy-induced lack of menstruation for six months or more seemed to do better than women who did not, regardless of their treatment and whether the breast cancer was estrogen-receptor positive or negative. Some breast cancer cells have receptors for the hormone estrogen and others do not.

Exactly why lack of menstruation was protective is not fully understood, but it may be a marker of the effectiveness of the treatments. It's also possible that suppressing the ovaries can have an effect on breast cancer, the researchers suggest. The ovaries produce the female sex hormone estrogen.

"This is an intriguing study that shows that the longer chemotherapy regimen did better than the shorter regimens in women with lymph-node-positive early breast cancer," says Marisa Weiss, MD, the president and founder of the advocacy group and the author of several books, including Taking Care of Your Girls: A Breast Health Guide for Girls, Teens, and In-Betweens.

Important questions remain, she says. For example, "what is it that [24-week] sequential ... vs. the other shorter-course regimens that provided this survival benefit?" she asks.

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
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow