Cancer - breast; Carcinoma - ductal; Carcinoma - lobular; DCIS; LCIS; HER2-positive breast cancer; ER-positive breast cancer; Ductal carcinoma in situ; Lobular carcinoma in situ
Treatment is based on many factors, including:
- Type and stage of the cancer
- Whether the cancer is sensitive to certain hormones
- Whether the cancer overproduces (overexpresses) a gene called HER2/neu
In general, cancer treatments may include:
Chemotherapymedicines to kill cancer cells
Radiation therapyto destroy cancerous tissue
- Surgery to remove cancerous tissue -- a
lumpectomyremoves the breast lump; mastectomyremoves all or part of the breast and possible nearby structures
Hormonal therapy is prescribed to women with ER-positive breast cancer to block certain hormones that fuel cancer growth.
- An example of hormonal therapy is the drug tamoxifen. This drug blocks the effects of estrogen, which can help breast cancer cells survive and grow. Most women with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer benefit from this drug.
- Another class of hormonal therapy medicines called aromatase inhibitors, such as exemestane (Aromasin), have been shown to work just as well or even better than tamoxifen in postmenopausal women with breast cancer. Aromatase inhibitors block estrogen from being made.
Targeted therapy, also called biologic therapy, is a newer type of cancer treatment. This therapy uses special anticancer drugs that target certain changes in a cell that can lead to cancer. One such drug is trastuzumab (Herceptin). It may be used for women with HER2-positive breast cancer.
Cancer treatment may be local or systemic.
- Local treatments involve only the area of disease. Radiation and surgery are forms of local treatment.
- Systemic treatments affect the entire body. Chemotherapy is a type of systemic treatment.
Review Date: 12/28/2010
Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.