Breast cancer chemotherapy: When is it used?

Chemotherapy may be used on its own or in combination with other breast cancer treatments.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Chemotherapy is a powerful drug treatment that's used to treat many types of cancer, including breast cancer.

Chemotherapy for breast cancer may be given in the following situations:

Chemotherapy after surgery for early breast cancer

After surgical removal of a tumor from a breast, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy to destroy any undetected cancer cells and to reduce your risk of the cancer recurring. This is known as adjuvant chemotherapy.

Your doctor may recommend adjuvant chemotherapy if you have a high risk of the cancer recurring or spreading to other parts of your body (metastasizing), even if there is no evidence of cancer after surgery. You may be at higher risk of metastasis if cancer cells are found in lymph nodes near the breast with the tumor.

It's important to talk to your doctor about how much the chemotherapy will reduce your chance of the cancer coming back, and whether this decrease in risk is worth the side effects of the chemotherapy. Also discuss with your doctor other alternatives, such as hormone-blocking therapy, that might be effective in your situation.

May. 29, 2014 See more In-depth