Breast Cancer

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the name of a group of anti cancer drugs used to kill cancer cells.

It is sometimes used as part of the treatment for breast cancer. Some patients require chemotherapy prior to surgery if the tumour is very large. Not all patients will require chemotherapy. This will depend on several factors related to the individual's breast cancer. Chemotherapy is offered to patients where they are likely to benefit from the treatment. This will be discussed with an oncologist who specialises in chemotherapy who will discuss the benefits of the treatment. The type of chemotherapy which will be offered is based on the current research which has shown a benefit for a particular group of patients.

There are several different types of chemotherapy drug combinations which are used to treat breast cancer. They are normally given into the vein via a drip. Chemotherapy is usually given in the outpatient setting. The treatment usually lasts 4-6 hours and is given in cycles of two - three weeks. This is followed by a rest period of 2-3 weeks until the next cycle starts.

Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment which affects all the cells in the body. Healthy cells as well as cancer cells are affected and this can cause side effects. These can include nausea, fatigue and hair loss. It is important to remember that most side effects from chemotherapy are temporary as healthy cells recover quickly. Side effects are managed very well throughout the treatment process to minimise any discomfort. There will be ample opportunity to discuss any queries with your oncologist and specialist nurse prior to starting any treatment.

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