Common Types Of Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy drugs are a specific class of medications called cytotoxic agents. Theyre designed to kill cancer cells.
Cancer cells grow faster than regular cells. These drugs disrupt the growth of fast-growing cells and leave slower-growing cells generally unharmed.
Some chemotherapy drugs damage the genetic material of the cells. Others interfere with the way the cells divide. However, some also affect other fast-growing cells in the body, such as hair, blood cells, and cells in the stomach lining and mouth. This accounts for some of the more common side effects.
The Red Devil Is Also Known By The Brand Names Rubex And Doxil
Adriamycin also known by the trade names Rubex and Doxilis a chemotherapy drug that can slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. Adriamycin is commonly used to treat both early stage and metastatic breast cancer, usually in combination with other drugs.
More specifically, Adriamycin is a type of anthracycline antibiotic that is an anti-tumor drug and is made from the bacterium Streptomyces. It can be beneficial in cancer treatment because it can inhibit the activity of an enzyme called topoisomerase-II after entering cancer cells and inserting itself into the DNA structure. This action makes cells unable to reproduce themselves.
However, Adriamycin also forms oxygen free radicals, which damage cell membranes and proteins. It is one of the chemotherapy drugs likely to cause hair loss, and can also cause heart damage for some people.
Personal Stories About Choosing Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years ago. It was quite a shock. Even though my breast cancer was small and I did not have any cancer cells in my lymph nodes, I decided to take chemotherapy. My doctor said that even though it would not guarantee that the cancer would not come back, it would improve my chances for a cure. I was really worried about the side effects, but they were not that bad. I just wanted to do everything in my power to beat this breast cancer. My checkups have been fine so far, so I think I made the right choice.
Laurel, age 43
I was diagnosed with breast cancer about 3 years after I went through menopause. My breast cancer was small, and I did not have any cancer in my lymph nodes. I stopped taking my menopause hormones, had surgery and radiation, and have been taking tamoxifen ever since. I see my doctor a couple of times a year and so far have been okay. I’m going to ask my doctor if I’m a good candidate for switching to something like Arimidex. I hear that it’s a smart choice for some women.
Brenda, age 57
Paula, age 61
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Increased Risk For Leukemia
Although rare, receiving chemotherapy can put you at higher risk for developing leukemia down the line. If this is the case, it usually appears within 10 years of receiving chemotherapy.
For most people, the benefits of receiving chemotherapy to help treat breast cancer outweigh the slight risk for developing leukemia.
Increased Risk Of Leukemia
Very rarely, certain chemo drugs can cause diseases of the bone marrow, such as myelodysplastic syndromes or even acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of white blood cells. If this happens, it is usually within 10 years after treatment. For most women, the benefits of chemo in helping prevent breast cancer from coming back or in extending life are far likely to exceed the risk of this rare but serious complication.
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How Does Docetaxel Work
Cancer cells are dangerous because they are abnormal cells that continue to divide and multiply. Chemotherapy drugs work by stopping cancer cells from dividing. Specifically, Taxotere works by freezing microtubules in a cancer cell, according to Sanofis 2017 annual report.
Microtubules are building blocks of the cells skeleton. During a cells growth cycle, microtubules assemble and disassemble. The medication blocks this process and prevents a cell from dividing, and this eventually kills the cell. Each type of cancer cell has its own rate of dividing, and doctors give chemotherapy in cycles to interrupt the cell division cycle.
Michelle Llamas has been writing articles and producing podcasts about drugs, medical devices and the FDA for nearly a decade. She focuses on various medical conditions, health policy, COVID-19, LGBTQ health, mental health and womens health issues. Michelle collaborates with experts, including board-certified doctors, patients and advocates, to provide trusted health information to the public. Some of her qualifications include:
- Member of American Medical Writers Association and former Engage Committee and Membership Committee member
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Literacy certificates
- Original works published or cited in The Lancet, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and the Journal for Palliative Medicine
- Patient Advocacy Certificate from University of Miami
Chemotherapy For Metastatic Breast Cancer
Advances in treatment are making it possible for women with metastatic breast cancer to live for many years. New drug therapies can not only slow down or stop a tumors growth but also keep symptoms at bay.
Which treatment your doctor recommends will vary based on your medical history, age, and breast cancer type, among other factors. Combinations of drugs are commonly prescribed for women with early-stage disease. Most women with advanced breast cancer generally receive only one drug at a time.
Chemotherapy drugs that MSK doctors commonly prescribe for advanced breast cancer include:
Women with advanced disease can also benefit from genomic testing. This is also called tumor sequencing or molecular profiling. It is offered to all MSK patients with metastatic breast cancer. Genomic testing involves looking at the cancer cells to see if there are any genetic mutations that could be linked to the specific type of breast cancer you have.
Our experts use a highly sophisticated testing approach developed by MSK researchers called MSK-IMPACT. The information gained from MSK-IMPACT can help us personalize your care. We can rule out drug therapies that may not work for you or sometimes recommend cutting-edge clinical trials designed to target the specific mutations in your tumor.
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What To Expect After Chemo
Once youâre home, you need to take care of yourself and take steps to manage chemo side effects. These include:
- Take medications the doctor prescribed for side effects.
- Stay away from anyone with a cold or infection — chemo makes it harder for your body to fight germs.
- Drink lots of fluids for the first 8 hours to move the medicine through your body.
- Manage bodily fluids and waste that may have traces of chemo. Usually, this means flushing the toilet twice.
Youâll see your doctor every 4 to 6 months for the next 5 years after treatment ends.
How You Have Chemotherapy
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
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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Possible Side Effects Of Chemo For Breast Cancer
Chemo drugs can cause side effects. These depend on the type and dose of drugs given, and the length of treatment. Some of the most common possible side effects include:
- Hair loss
Chemo can also affect the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow, which can lead to:
- Increased chance of infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding
These side effects usually go away after treatment is finished. There are often ways to lessen these side effects. For example, drugs can be given to help prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting.
Other side effects are also possible. Some of these are more common with certain chemo drugs. Ask your cancer care team about the possible side effects of the specific drugs you are getting.
Side Effects Of Breast Cancer Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy usually works by attacking rapidly dividing cells. This means that chemotherapy can harm not only cancer cells but also healthy cells that are dividing rapidly, like the ones that cause your hair to grow.
Whether you have side effects from breast cancer chemotherapy will depend on the details of your treatment plan. The care teams at MSK are committed to helping you feel your best during and after treatment. During treatment, well watch carefully for your reaction to the drugs and adjust the drugs or dose as necessary. Well also continue to monitor you for possible long-term effects after your treatment ends.
We offer a variety of other specialized services to support you during your treatment. Many MSK patients find that our Integrative Medicine Service can be a valuable part of their treatment plan. Programs include massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, meditation, visualization, music therapy, and nutritional counseling.
One side effect of chemotherapy can be hair loss. MSK offers scalp cooling to help minimize hair loss. Learn more about scalp cooling, or ask your care team for more information.
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Key Points To Remember
- Chemotherapy is sometimes used after surgery for early-stage breast cancer to help lower the chances that your breast cancer will come back.
- Some types of cancer have a very small chance of coming back. Women who have these types of cancer may not need chemo. There are gene tests that may show whether having chemo will help you reduce your chances that the cancer will return.
- Your age, type of cancer, tumour size, and hormone receptor status have an effect on how well chemo will work to keep your cancer from coming back.
- Different medicines used for chemo have different side effects. Your doctor can give you other medicines to help you deal with side effects like nausea and vomiting. Some women are bothered a lot by the side effects, but some aren’t.
Is Chemo Right For You
Not all people who receive a diagnosis of breast cancer will need chemotherapy. Cancer can often be effectively treated with local therapies like surgery and radiation, without systemic treatment.
If youve received a diagnosis of larger tumors where the cells have spread to nearby lymph nodes, you may need a few rounds of chemo. In these cases, chemo is used as adjuvant therapy, or to prevent cancer from returning after the tumor has been removed.
If youve received a diagnosis of a stage 3 cancer and larger tumors, you may go straight to systemic treatment before getting surgery. This is called neoadjuvant treatment.
While the idea of chemotherapy may be intimidating, there have been significant improvements in how side effects are managed. Undergoing chemotherapy is much more tolerable than it used to be.
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Can Cancer Spread During Chemotherapy
While chemotherapy is one of the oldest and most successful ways of treating cancer, it doesnt always work. So, yes, cancer can spread during chemotherapy. Spreading could mean the tumor keeps growing, or that the original tumor shrinks, but cancer metastasizes, forming tumors in other areas of the body.
Advanced cancers, which have spread to other tissues and lymph nodes locally, or have metastasized to other organs, are among the hardest cancers to treat. Chemotherapy may not work to shrink or kill advanced and metastasized cancers.
In these cases, your cancer can keep growing and spreading during chemotherapy treatment. Sometimes, it may require changing the type of chemotherapy to see if it can work better instead. Other times, the goal of chemotherapy may be more palliativeto reduce symptoms from the tumors.
Some cancers spread during chemotherapy because they undergo changes that make them resistant to chemotherapy. These changes can be directly in response to the chemotherapy drugs, or they may have already existed within the tumors. Resistant cancer cells can then be the seeds of new growth of the primary tumor or of distant spread.
Chemotherapy also creates inflammation, and this results in blood vessels becoming more permeable. This can make it easier for the tumor cells to move into the blood or lymphatic vessels and spread.
When To Speak With Your Doctor About Your Treatment
If your cancer isnt responding to chemotherapy, talk to your doctor. Youll want to consider the benefits and risks of the current chemotherapy treatment and discuss what other options may exist.
If the chemotherapy is helping your symptoms, that might be a good enough treatment goal. But if its causing more side effects than youre comfortable with, you may want to consider stopping treatment.
There may be additional treatment options, including clinical trials, that might be a better fit for you. If youve tried three different treatment options, it may be time to think about stopping cancer treatment. Talk to your doctor about your options.
If your cancer is advanced or metastatic and doesnt have a good prognosis, palliative care or changing your treatment approach to focus on your quality of life may be a better option than continuing chemotherapy or other treatments.
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What Drugs Are Used For Breast Cancer Chemo
Chemotherapy drugs used for breast cancer
- Anthracyclines, such as doxorubicin and epirubicin
- Taxanes, such as paclitaxel and docetaxel
- 5-fluorouracil or capecitabine.
What type of chemotherapy is used for breast cancer?
Chemotherapy drugs used to treat early breast cancer include: Anthracyclines: This class of drugs includes doxorubicin and epirubicin . Taxanes: This class of drugs includes docetaxel and paclitaxel .
what is the best drug for breast cancer?anastrozole
What Are The Potential Side Effects Of Chemotherapy Drugs
The specific side effects you may experience will depend on the type and amount of medications you are given and how long you are taking them. The most common temporary side effects include:
- Higher risk of infection
- Bruising or bleeding
- Premature menopause and infertility are potential permanent complications of chemotherapy.
- Heart damage can be a permanent complication of some chemotherapy.
Please contact your health care provider about specific side effects you can expect to experience from your specific chemotherapy medications. Also discuss troubling or unmanageable side effects with your provider.
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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.
Chemotherapy And Side Effects
What is chemotherapy?
Drug treatment for cancer is called chemotherapy. The job of chemotherapy is to destroy cancer cells, including those that may have spread beyond the main tumor. Unlike surgery or radiation, most types of chemotherapy, or “chemo,” don’t target a particular tumor or a particular part of the body, although there are some newer “designer drugs” being developed that seek out and destroy cancer cells specifically. Most forms of chemotherapy attack all rapidly dividing cells, and cancer cells fit that description.
Although cancer cells divide rapidly, other cells do too, including the ones in the lining of your stomach and the ones that grow hair on your head. Because the drugs affect all types of cells in your body, you’re likely to feel worse after a round of chemotherapy — at least temporarily. Some drugs have worse side effects than others.
Some people need chemotherapy for only a short time, but others may need treatment off and on for years. The drugs might be able to cure your cancer completely, or they might only be able to give you extra time. It all depends on what kind of cancer you have, how advanced the cancer is and how well it responds to treatment.
What are the different types of chemotherapy drugs?
Here’s a brief description of some common chemotherapy drugs:
What will treatment be like?
What are some of the possible side effects of chemotherapy drugs?
Here’s a brief look at some common side effects:
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When Is Chemotherapy Used To Treat Early
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.
Some people think of added treatment as an insurance policy designed to destroy any cancer cells that may still be in the body.
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 tumour 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: