Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

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

Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is defined as the absence of staining for estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER2/neu. TNBC is insensitive to some of the most effective therapies available for breast cancer treatment including HER2-directed therapy such as trastuzumab and endocrine therapies such as tamoxifen or the aromatase inhibitors. Combination cytotoxic chemotherapy administered in a dose-dense or metronomic schedule remains the standard therapy for early-stage TNBC.[1] A prospective...

Read the Triple-Negative Breast Cancer 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

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