Treatment of Breast Cancer

Key points

  • Breast cancer can be treated in several ways. It depends on the type of breast cancer and how far it has spread.
  • People with breast cancer often get more than one kind of treatment.

Treatment options

Photo of a breast cancer patient in a hospital bed talking to her doctor
Breast cancer is treated in several ways. It depends on the kind of breast cancer and how far it has spread.
  • Surgery: Is an operation in which doctors cut out the cancer.
  • Chemotherapy: Uses special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.
  • Hormonal therapy: Blocks cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
  • Biological therapy: Works with your body's immune system to help it fight cancer cells or to control side effects from other cancer treatments.
  • Radiation therapy: Uses high-energy rays (similar to x-rays) to kill the cancer.

For more information, visit the National Cancer Institute's Breast Cancer Treatment Option Overview. This site can also help you find health care services.

Which treatment is right for me?

Talk to your cancer doctor about the treatment options available for your type and stage of cancer. Your doctor can explain the risks and benefits of each treatment and their side effects. Side effects are how your body reacts to drugs or other treatments.

Sometimes people get an opinion from more than one cancer doctor. This is called a "second opinion." Getting a second opinion may help you choose the treatment that is right for you.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials use new treatment options to see if they are safe and effective. If you have cancer, you may want to take part. Visit the sites listed below for more information.

Complementary and alternative medicine

Complementary and alternative medicine are medicines and health practices that are not standard cancer treatments. Complementary medicine is used in addition to standard treatments. Alternative medicine is used instead of standard treatments. Acupuncture and supplements like vitamins and herbs are some examples.

Many kinds of complementary and alternative medicine have not been tested scientifically and may not be safe. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits before you start any kind of complementary or alternative medicine.