Treatment options for all types and stages.

Treating Breast Cancer

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This section discusses treatment for early and locally-advanced breast cancers (stages I, II and III). These breast cancers include invasive ductal carcinomas and invasive lobular carcinomas.

Learn about treatment for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

Learn about treatment for metastatic breast cancer (stage IV, advanced breast cancer).

Breast cancer treatment

The goal of treating early and locally-advanced breast cancers is to get rid of the cancer and keep it from coming back.

Treatment includes some combination of:

These treatments are designed to remove the cancer from the breast and destroy any cancer that might still be in the body.

Your breast cancer treatment plan

Your breast cancer treatment plan is based on both medical and personal choices. Together, you and your health care provider make treatment decisions.

Treatment for early and locally-advanced breast cancer is based on:

  • The biology of the tumor, including biomarkers (such as hormone receptor status and HER2 status)
  • Tumor profiling test results, for some estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers
  • The stage of the breast cancer
  • Your overall health, age, menopausal status and other medical issues
  • Your personal preferences

Some of the information that helps guide your treatment is found in your pathology report(s).

Because of the differences between tumors and between people, your treatment plan may differ from someone else’s, even though you both have breast cancer.

After you get a recommended treatment plan from your health care provider, study your treatment options. Talk to those closest to you. Consider getting a second opinion.

Make thoughtful, informed decisions that are best for you. Each treatment option has risks and benefits to consider along with your own values and lifestyle.

Learn more about factors that affect treatment options.

Local therapy and systemic therapy

Early breast cancer treatment can be divided into local therapy and systemic therapy.

Local therapy

Local therapy removes the cancer from a limited (local) area, such as the breast, chest wall and lymph nodes in the underarm area. It helps ensure the cancer doesn’t come back to that area.

Local therapy involves surgery, with or without radiation therapy to the breast and nearby lymph nodes.

Systemic therapy (neoadjuvant therapy and adjuvant therapy)

Systemic therapy aims to get rid of cancer cells that may have spread from the breast to other parts of the body. These cells are too small to see on scans or to measure with lab tests.

Systemic therapy uses drug therapies that travel throughout the body to get rid of cancer cells. It’s used in addition to (an adjunct to) breast surgery. So, these treatments are often called adjuvant therapy when given after surgery, and neoadjuvant therapy when given before surgery.

Learn about drug therapies used to treat breast cancer.

Learn about factors that affect treatment options.

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What is personalized medicine?

There’s no standard medical definition for personalized medicine (also called precision medicine). So, you may hear this term used in different ways.

For breast cancer, the goal of personalized medicine is to give the most effective treatment for each person’s breast cancer. This involves:

  • Getting the best results, while avoiding unnecessary treatment. All treatments for breast cancer have side effects and other risks. Avoiding unnecessary treatments avoids these side effects and risks.
  • Developing therapies to target specific tumors or specific cellular pathways that lead to tumor growth.
  • Identifying which people will respond best to each treatment.

Learn more about factors that affect treatment and prognosis.

How is breast cancer treatment personalized?

To personalize breast cancer treatment, health care providers may use information related to the tumor and related to the person, including a person’s genes.

Treatment is personalized based on the groups a person belongs to (such as people with HER2-positive breast cancers, people with lymph node-positive breast cancers, women who are premenopausal and other groups) rather than to a specific person.

The results of clinical trials show us which therapies are most effective in which groups of people. If a certain therapy is effective in a group you belong to, your treatment plan may be personalized to include that therapy.

However, there’s no way to predict how any one person will respond to a certain treatment.

Factors related to the tumor

Breast cancers differ in many ways. These differences help personalize treatment to give the most benefit to each person. They also give information on prognosis (chances for survival).

Most factors that help personalize treatment are related to the breast cancer itself. For example, all tumors are tested for:

Learn more about factors that affect treatment and prognosis.

A person’s genes

Whether or not a person has certain inherited gene mutations can guide treatment.

For example, PARP inhibitors are only used to treat breast cancer in people who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited gene mutation.

Other personal factors

Some factors that help personalize treatment plans are related to an individual. For example, for a woman whose treatment plan includes hormone therapy, her drug options depend on whether she is in menopause.

After menopause, women can take tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor. Before menopause, women can take tamoxifen, or an aromatase inhibitor combined with ovarian suppression.

Learn more about factors that affect treatment and prognosis.

No matter your age, your treatment plan depends on many factors, such as tumor stage, tumor grade, hormone receptor status and HER2 status

Your overall health and other health conditions also play a role. For example, if you have heart disease, some medications used to treat breast cancer can do more harm than good.

All these things, as well as your age, are considered when planning your treatment.

Early menopause and fertility

Young women may have special concerns about early menopause and loss of fertility due to breast cancer treatment.

Learn about issues for young women with breast cancer.

Managing side effects and supportive care are important parts of breast cancer treatment.

Symptom management aims to prevent or relieve side effects, such as pain or nausea.

Supportive care includes symptom management as well as care of your emotional, social, spiritual and practical needs. This care is also known as palliative care.

Completing your breast cancer treatment plan (called adherence or compliance) is important. People who complete their full course of treatment for early breast cancer have a higher chance of survival.

Sometimes completing your treatment plan is hard, but there are things you can do to make it easier.

Tell your health care providers right away if you have any side effects. They may be able to help. Having fewer side effects can help you complete your treatment plan.

Following your treatment plan can be hard for long-term treatments, such as hormone therapy. Planning ahead can help.

For example, if you have trouble remembering to take your medicine, a daily pillbox or setting an alarm on your watch or mobile device (you may be able to download an app) may help [1].

Learn more about the importance of following your breast cancer treatment plan.

Throughout your treatment and beyond, you’ll get care from many health care providers. Your health care team may include: 

  • Doctors involved in cancer treatment (medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists)
  • Doctors involved in other care for people with breast cancer (radiologists, pathologists, palliative care or pain specialists, and others)
  • Your primary care provider
  • Nurses
  • Genetic counselors
  • Dietitians
  • Social workers
  • Physical therapists
  • Patient navigators
  • Pharmacists
  • Other health care providers

These providers may be involved in your care throughout diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

Learn about choosing a doctor.

Online access to your medical information

Most hospitals and doctor offices now allow you access to your medical information online. You set up an account with a login name and password for security to protect your privacy.

An online account gives you access to your test results, pathology and radiology reports, prescription drug information, medical appointments, doctors’ notes and more. It also gives you an easy way to communicate with your health care team.

Staying organized

It may be helpful to use a notebook, 3-ring binder or other organizer to keep track of your breast cancer treatments and health care team.

You may want to include:

  • A directory of the names, addresses and contact information for your health care team
  • Insurance information
  • Medication lists
  • Pharmacy contact information
  • Other medical information
  • A calendar to help plan and keep track of appointments
  • Blank paper to write down questions and answers, or to record any side effects you’re having or other information for your health care team
  • Pockets to store materials

Talking openly with your health care provider is one of the best ways to feel good about your breast cancer treatment decisions.

Find questions to help you talk with your health care provider about:

Learn more about talking with your health care provider.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor resources

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with breast cancer or feel too overwhelmed to know where to begin to gather information, Susan G. Komen® has a Questions to Ask Your Doctor When Breast Cancer is Diagnosed resource that might help.

You can download, print and write on the resource at your next doctor’s appointment. Or you can download, type and save it on your computer, tablet or phone during a telehealth visit using an app such as Adobe. Plenty of space and a notes section are provided to jot down answers to the questions.

There are other Questions to Ask Your Doctor resources on many different breast cancer topics you may wish to download.

Insurance issues, such as what to do if a claim is denied, can be a major concern while you’re being treated for breast cancer.

Paying for medications and other out-of-pocket expenses can also be a burden.

Learn about insurance and financial assistance programs.

Komen Financial Assistance Program

Susan G. Komen® created the Komen Financial Assistance Program to help those struggling with the costs of breast cancer treatment by providing financial assistance to eligible individuals.

Funding is available for eligible individuals undergoing breast cancer treatment at any stage or living with metastatic breast cancer (stage IV).

To learn more about this program and other helpful resources, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email

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If you need help getting to and from treatments or if you (or your family) need a place to stay overnight while you’re getting treatment, there are programs that may help.

There are also programs that may help with the cost of child and elder care while you’re undergoing treatment.

Learn about transportation, lodging, child care and elder care assistance programs.



  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, contact the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. Se habla español.
  • Komen Patient Navigators can help guide you through the health care system as you go through a breast cancer diagnosis. They can help to remove barriers to high-quality breast care. For example, they can help you with insurance, local resources, communication with health care providers and more. Call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email to learn more about our Patient Navigator program, including eligibility.
  • Komen Facebook groups provide a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can share their experiences and build strong relationships with each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” or “Komen Metastatic Breast Cancer group” to request to join one of our closed groups.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

Updated 05/31/22