Breast Cancer

Frequently Asked Questions

32. How is chemotherapy used to treat breast cancer?

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. A patient may take chemotherapy by mouth in pill form, or it may be put into the body by inserting a needle into a vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called whole body or systemic treatment if the drug(s) enter the bloodstream, travel through the body, and kill cancer cells throughout the body. Treatment with standard chemotherapy can be as short as two months or as long as two years. Targeted therapies, usually in pill form, have become more common and focus on either a gene or protein abnormality and usually have few adverse side-effects as they directly affect the abnormality and not other cells or tissues in the body.

Sometimes chemotherapy is the only treatment the doctor will recommend. More often, however, chemotherapy is used in addition to surgery, radiation therapy, and/or biological therapy.