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What Is Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer?

Chemotherapy is a chemical, or group of chemicals, designed to stop the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs may be given intravenously, orally, or as a combination of the two. There are many chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast cancer. 

When breast cancer is limited to the breast or lymph nodes, chemotherapy may be given after a lumpectomy or mastectomy. This is done to help reduce the chance of breast cancer coming back.

Recommended Related to Breast Cancer

Unusual Cancers of the Chest

Breast Cancer Most breast tumors in children are fibroadenomas, which are benign (not cancer). Rarely, these tumors become large phyllodes tumors (cancer) and begin to grow quickly. If a benign tumor begins to grow quickly, a fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy or an excisional biopsy will be done. The tissues removed during the biopsy will be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form...

Read the Unusual Cancers of the Chest article > >

If the breast tumor is large, chemotherapy is sometimes given before surgery in order to shrink the tumor so it can be removed more easily or so that a lumpectomy can be performed instead of a mastectomy.

Chemotherapy may also be given as the main treatment for women whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body outside of the breast and lymph nodes.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on March 19, 2013

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