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Does Chemo Really Work For Breast Cancer

How Does It Work

How Does Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer Work?

How does the chemo really work? The chemotherapy targets the cancer cells and stops them from replicating and taking over the good cells. Some forms block a particular enzyme that the cells need to manufacture new ones. Other forms trap cancer by sticking to the DNA, locking the double-helix into place.

Your doctor can opt for a more traditional blast of the whole body if the cancer is spreading far from the original site or a more targeted approach if the tumor is still small and in the beginning stages. It will depend on your type of cancer, the subset, and the stage or spreading of the tumor.

A relatively new treatment that doctors will sometimes add to chemo is monoclonal antibodies. These antibodies bind to proteins on the top of cancer cells called antigens. When the antibodies combine with the proteins, it alerts the patients own immune system that these cells are bad and need attacking.

Immunotherapy is another new treatment. It jump-starts the patients immune system to attack the cancer cells.

What To Expect During Treatment

You usually get chemo in an outpatient center at a hospital or clinic. If you have early stage breast cancer, youâll probably get treatments for 3 to 6 months. It may last longer for advanced breast cancer. Youâll have treatment in cycles, which could be just once a week or as often as three times a week. If youâre getting radiation and chemo together, youâll get the radiation after the chemo treatment. You may want to have someone drive you home the first few times until you know how it affects you.

On the day of treatment:

  • Technicians will take some of your blood for tests.
  • Your doctor will go over the blood test results and talk about your overall health.
  • The doctor orders the treatment.
  • Youâll meet with the person on your health care team whoâs going to give you the chemo.
  • Theyâll check your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure.
  • Theyâll put the IV into your vein.
  • Theyâll give you medications to prevent nausea, anxiety, and inflammation along with the chemotherapy.
  • When your treatment is done, theyâll remove your IV and check your vital signs again.
  • Youâll get prescriptions for dugs you can take at home to help with side effects.
  • Theyâll tell you what is OK to eat and drink once youâre home.

The Types Of Radiotherapy

The type of radiotherapy you have will depend on the type of breast cancer and the type of surgery you have. Some women may not need to have radiotherapy at all.

Types of radiotherapy include:

  • breast radiotherapy;;after breast-conserving surgery, radiation is applied to the whole of the remaining breast tissue
  • chest-wall radiotherapy;;after a mastectomy, radiotherapy is applied to the chest wall
  • breast boost;;some women may be offered a boost of high-dose radiotherapy in the area where the cancer was removed; however, this may affect the appearance of your breast, particularly if you have large breasts, and can sometimes have other side effects, including hardening of breast tissue
  • radiotherapy to the lymph nodes ;where radiotherapy is aimed at the armpit and the surrounding area to kill any cancer that may be in the lymph nodes

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How Is Chemotherapy Used In Cancer Treatment Today

How chemotherapy is used in treatment depends on the type and stage of the cancer and how aggressive it is. Some cancers, such as an indolent lymphoma or prostate cancer, may not need immediate treatment, but chemotherapy may eventually be recommended if the cancer progresses. Other cancers require immediate treatment.

Chemotherapy may be used alone as the primary treatment for a cancer, or it may be used in combination with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy, targeted therapy;or immunotherapy.

An oncologist;may recommend chemotherapy before and/or after another treatment. For example, in a patient with breast cancer, chemotherapy may be used before surgery, to try to shrink the tumor. The same patient may benefit from chemotherapy after surgery to try to destroy remaining cancer cells.

Chemotherapy may also be used to relieve symptoms caused by advanced cancer, which improves a patients quality of life. Some of these patients may be able to take occasional breaks from treatment.

The types of cancers where chemotherapy is very commonly used as primary treatment include:

I Told My Boss And A Few Co

8 Ways to Cope with the Dreaded "Chemo Brain"

Niomi Thompson, a community college administrator in Wichita, KS, is getting chemotherapy for stage III breast cancer. She chose to disclose her diagnosis at work because she knew shed look different after starting treatment and would have to miss days of work.

The first person I told was my direct supervisor, Thompson says. After about a week, I emailed several close co-workers to tell them directly. She also gave her supervisor permission to tell other members of their team so she wouldnt have to repeat her story over and over.

Shes happy with her decision.

My direct supervisor was incredibly understanding and compassionate, as were my co-workers and other team members, Thompson says. Im glad I told them because many of them shared their own experiences with cancer and it was comforting to hear their stories.

Thompsons co-workers even set up meals for her chemo days, which helped her family. But not everyone has such a supportive situation.

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Cancer Researchers Worry Immunotherapy May Hasten Growth Of Tumors In Some Patients

Depending on characteristics such as how many tumor cells, blood vessel cells, and immune cells are touching each other, the tumor microenvironment can nearly triple the chance that a common type of breast cancer that has reached the lymph nodes will also metastasize, Condeelis and colleagues showed in a 2014 study;of 3,760 patients. The discovery of how the tumor microenvironment can fuel metastasis by whisking cancer cells into blood vessels so impressed Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, that he featured it in his blog.

The new study took the next logical step: Can the tumor microenvironment be altered so that it promotes or thwarts metastasis?

To find out, Einsteins George Karagiannis spent nearly three years experimenting with lab mice whose genetic mutations make them spontaneously develop breast cancer, as well as mice given human breast tumors. In both cases, paclitaxel changed the tumor microenvironments in three ways, all more conducive to metastasis: The microenvironment had more of the immune cells that carry cancer cells into blood vessels, it developed blood vessels that were more permeable to cancer cells, and the tumor cells became more mobile, practically bounding into those molecular Lyfts.

Pre-op chemo may have unwanted long-term consequences in some breast cancer patients, the Einstein researchers wrote.

Why Is Chemotherapy Still The Go

So why in the world are doctors continuing to prescribe a treatment that doesnt work on most cancers?

Read my post on;The Business of Chemo.

When I was where you are, back in 2004, I also knew chemo was a toxic poison, which is why I didnt want to do it.

It didnt make sense to me that I could poison my body back to health.

Nevertheless, in the back of my mind it was my last resort if nothing else worked.

Today, as Im writing this post, I know many people , whose bodies have been wrecked by chemotherapy.

Theyve spent tens of thousands of dollars on these treatments and they still have cancer.

That is why I do what I do here on this site.

I am not a doctor and cannot give cancer treatment advice, but as a friend I can certainly share what I did.

Theres no law against that!

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Is Chemo For Breast Cancer Overprescribed

According to a landmark study, a large percentage of individuals with the most common form of early breast cancer could safely skip chemotherapy. The findings could impact thousands of people each year.

While new therapies such as immunotherapies are becoming increasingly crucial in treating cancer, chemotherapy is still a mainstay.

In short, chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control cancer throughout the body.

As opposed to surgery or radiation therapy which concentrates on the tumor and the area surrounding it chemotherapy will affect the whole body.

Though chemotherapy is effective, it carries with it a range of significant side effects, such as hair loss, increased risk of bleeding, susceptibility to infection, nausea, vomiting, and anemia.

Consequently, chemotherapy is only used when deemed entirely necessary. The challenge lies in determining exactly when it is entirely necessary.

When Is Chemotherapy Used To Treat Early

Does Chemotherapy Work For Breast Cancer (And What Causes Breast Cancer)

The first treatment for early-stage breast cancer usually includes surgery and sometimes radiation. Your doctor may also talk to you about added treatment, such as chemotherapy and hormone therapy, that may help keep cancer from coming back.

It isn’t possible for all women to know for sure who will benefit from added treatment. But if you have early-stage, estrogen receptor positive breast cancer with no cancer in the lymph nodes, you may have a gene test. Gene tests, such as the Oncotype DX, may be done on the cancerous tissue that was removed to look for tumor markers. These tests can give your doctor important information about whether chemotherapy will help you.

The type of added treatment you have depends on the stage and classification of your breast cancer:

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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, and alternative medicine is used instead of standard treatments. Meditation, yoga, 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.

Choosing A Chemo Combination

Your doctor will probably talk to you about combining different chemo drugs. They may refer to them by abbreviations for their names. Some of the most common include:

  • AC: Adriamycin and Cytoxan
  • CMF: Cytoxan, methotrexate, and fluorouracil
  • FAC: Fluorouracil, Adriamycin, and Cytoxan
  • CAF: Cytoxan, Adriamycin, and fluorouracil

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The Effects On Dividing Cells

Chemotherapy damages cells as they divide.

In the centre of each living cell is a dark blob, called the nucleus. The nucleus is the control centre of the cell. It contains chromosomes, which are made up of genes.

These genes have to be copied exactly each time a cell divides into 2 to make new cells.

Chemotherapy damages the genes inside the nucleus of cells.

Some drugs damage cells at the point of splitting. Some damage the cells while they’re;making copies of all their genes before they split. Chemotherapy is much less likely to damage cells that are at rest, such as most normal cells.

You might;have a combination of different chemotherapy drugs. This;will include drugs that damage cells at different stages in the process of cell division. This means there’s more chance of killing more cells.

Why Might Your Doctor Recommend Chemotherapy

10 Common Chemo Drugs and What They Do

Your doctor might recommend chemotherapy after surgery if:

  • You are younger than 35. Women younger than 35 usually have a more aggressive type of breast cancer.
  • Your breast cancer was bigger than a pea. Breast cancers that are at least 1 cm are more likely to come back later.
  • Your breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under your arm. If that’s the case, there is a bigger chance that the cancer may also have spread to other places in your body.
  • Your breast cancer is HER-2 positive or triple-negative. These types of cancer tend to grow faster and spread more quickly.

Your doctor may use a genetic test to find your risk for having your cancer come back. This information can help you and your doctor decide about chemotherapy.

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Longer Term Side Effects


Tiredness is commonly reported during treatment. This may be a direct effect of the drugs or may be due to other factors such as disrupted sleep patterns.

  • Try to get adequate rest but also try to exercise regularly. Go for a walk outside each day as this can actually give you more energy.
  • Find something that you actually enjoy doing and also try to incorporate exercise into your usual day, e.g. walk upstairs rather than taking the lift, park further away from where you want to go and walk the extra distance. Build this up gradually.
  • Your GP, practice nurse or a physiotherapist can work with you to devise a specific exercise plan for you.
  • Let others help when your energy levels are low.

If your fatigue doesn’t allow you to exercise, discuss this with your GP.

Usually energy levels recover after treatment finishes but this commonly takes time. In some cases full recovery may take 12 months or more.

Cognitive changes

Some people notice they are having concentration and short-term memory problems following their chemotherapy. This is often referred to as chemo brain. The severity and duration of symptoms differ from person to person. For some people the symptoms are very mild and resolve soon after treatment stops, but others may find their daily life is noticeably affected for a much longer period, restricting their ability to return to work in their pre-treatment capacity.


Heart conditions

How Does Chemotherapy Work

Chemotherapy works by attacking fast-growing cells in your body, including cancer cells. There are many different types of chemotherapy; your medical oncologist will talk to you about whats most suitable for you. Sometimes more than one type of treatment may be effective for you, and you may be asked to decide which one to have. Your medical oncologist can tell you about the pros and cons of each.

Some questions you might like to ask include:

  • What are the possible side effects of each treatment?
  • How long is the course of each treatment?
  • How will the treatment fit in with my lifestyle and personal circumstances?

Some chemotherapy drugs are given in tablet form, however, most are administered intravenously . As a result, it is useful to drink plenty of fluids, relax and keep your hands and arms warm, as this can help the nurse or doctor find your veins.

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What Exactly Is Chemotherapy

It is important to understand that there are many types of chemo drugs today. In the past, it was standard chemotherapy, which is a chemical drug from an IV that ran through the entire body. Now there are plenty of medicines and different ways the patient can take that drug.

Today, there is still the traditional way through an IV in the vein; but, there are also pills or liquids that can be taken home, implants, that are the size of a dime and come in a wafer form that dissolves, and the patient can take it as a shot between the skin and muscle like insulin injections, and topically in the form of a cream or ointment this is most often used for skin cancers.

How You Have Chemotherapy

How Does Chemotherapy Treat Breast Cancer?

You usually have treatment into your bloodstream .

You might have treatment through a long plastic tube;that goes;into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment. This can be a:

  • central line
  • PICC line
  • portacath

If you don’t have a central line you might;have treatment;through a thin short tube . The cannula goes into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment.

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Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Chemotherapy

Patients are sometimes reluctant to ask questions, but I tell my patients that any question is an important question when it comes to their cancer care. Oncologists;deal with cancer every day, but it’s all new to the patient. Getting your questions answered will help you make informed decisions about your care.

Think about your questions before your appointment. Write them down and bring them with you. I also recommend bringing a family member or friend to take notes during the appointment because its easy to get overwhelmed by information.

Here are some questions to consider asking your doctor about chemotherapy:

  • What drug or drugs are you recommending?
  • Whats the goal of this treatment?
  • How long will I be on it?
  • How do I receive it?
  • How often do I have to come in? Can someone come in with me?
  • If Im taking this drug at home, where do I store it? How often do I take it? What if I forget to take it?
  • What are the potential side effects? Are you going to give me anything ahead of time to deal with them?
  • Am I likely to have long-term side effects from this drug?
  • Who do I call if Im at home and I have a question?
  • What kind of support is there to help me through this treatment?
  • Is there any support for my caregivers?

If you think of more questions after your appointment, call back and ask them.

If you start chemotherapy and your experience is different from what you expected, talk to your care team. They may be able to make changes that help you.

What Are The Risks Of Chemotherapy

Different chemotherapy medicines tend to cause different side effects. Many women do not have problems with these side effects, while other women are bothered a lot. There are other medicines you can take to treat the side effects of chemo.

Talk to your doctor about the type of chemotherapy medicine that he or she is planning to give you. Ask about any side effects that the chemo may cause.

Short-term side effects can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Hair thinning or hair loss.
  • Mouth sores.
  • Increased chance of bruising, bleeding, and infection.
  • Memory and concentration problems.

Long-term side effects of chemotherapy can include:

  • Early menopause, which means not being able to have children anymore. It also can include symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and thinning bones .
  • Concentration problems that may last for many months after your treatments are finished.
  • In rare cases, heart damage and a higher risk of other types of cancers, such as leukemia.

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