The essential treatment for breast cancer is surgery. Based on early diagnosis, the intervention may be limited to the removal of the tumor while preserving the maximum of the mammary gland. However, in addition to the surgical treatment, doctors sometimes recommend chemotherapy in the treatment of breast cancer. The goal of the therapy depends on the characteristic or the extension of the tumor. Chemotherapy consists of using powerful anti-cancer drugs to kill tumor cells in the entire organism. Nevertheless, chemotherapy is not offered in all cases of breast cancer. For instance, chemotherapy is not or rarely used in the case of tumors less than one centimeter.
The chemotherapy drugs are called cytotoxic drugs. They are grouped into several therapeutic classes; each one has a specific action on the cancer cells. The nature of the association and its methods of administration are grouped under the term protocol. In the treatment of breast cancer, different protocols are often used – CA, FCA, and EC for instance. Although can be adjusted according to specific situations, chemotherapy protocols should be respected as strictly as possible. It is important to take your chemotherapy drugs (especially in cases of oral treatment) exactly as recommended by your health provider.
In general, each chemotherapy session lasts several days or weeks, and then followed by a period of rest to allow normal cells of the body to regenerate. The total duration of the chemotherapy depends on the protocols used and other therapeutic involvements. When used with other therapies, the overall chemotherapy can be shorter and less strong. Whatever the protocols used and the duration of the therapy, chemotherapy is an aggressive treatment, and can seriously affect the normal functioning of certain organs such as liver, kidney, heart and the immune system cells.