Chemotherapy may also be used with other therapies like radiation treatment, biologic therapy, targeted therapy, or hormone blocking therapy.
Chemotherapy Drugs and Delivery
There are many kinds of chemotherapy drugs. The drugs and how they are used will depend on the type of cancer. Breast cancer may be treated with:
doxorubicin, and fluorouracil (CAF)
Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide (AC)
Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide followed by
docetaxel concurrent with AC,
Doxorubicin, followed by CMF
Docetaxel and cyclophosphamide (TC)
epirubicin, and fluorouracil with or without docetaxel
Chemotherapy is most often given through an IV. It's done in cycles over a set time.
Side Effects and Management
Chemotherapy can cause a range of health problems. The most common are:
Nausea or vomiting
Feeling very tired
Problems with memory or thinking clearly
Low blood cell counts (red cells, white cells, or platelets) that can lead to infection or bleeding
menopause—including symptoms and loss of fertility
Long term effects may include heart muscle damage (doxorubincin) and rarely, leukemia.
There are many ways to manage these problems. Medicines and lifestyle changes are the most common. In some cases, the cycles may be changed to lower the chances of serious problems. Talk to your care team as soon as these appear so they can be better controlled.
Breast cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/breast-disorders/breast-cancer. Updated January 2018. Accessed March 12, 2019.
Chemotherapy for breast cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment/chemotherapy-for-breast-cancer.html. Updated October 3, 2017. Accessed March 12, 2019.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-treatment-pdq#section/_185. Updated February 6, 2019. Accessed March 12, 2019.
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