Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Breast Cancer Treatment Options: Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. Chemotherapy reaches all parts of the body, not just the cancer cells. Your oncologist will recommend a treatment plan, and determine how long and how often you will have chemotherapy treatments. Chemotherapy can be administered intravenously (in the vein) or by pill, and is usually a combination of drugs. Chemotherapy treatments are often given in cycles; a treatment for a period of time, followed by a recovery period, then another treatment.

Chemotherapy can be given before surgery to shrink the tumor and sometimes make breast-conserving surgery possible rather than a mastectomy. Many times it is given after surgery and may be given every three weeks or every two weeks in a “dose dense” fashion.


As each person's individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his/her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team any/all possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins. Most side effects disappear once treatment is stopped.

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