Treating Breast Cancer
Important information about coronavirus (COVID-19).
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:
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone therapy
- HER2-targeted therapy
- CDK4/6 inhibitor therapy
- PARP inhibitor therapy
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 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.
SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES