Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Breast cancer often uses different combinations of treatment.

Breast cancer often uses different combinations of treatment.
beginning of content

Breast cancer treatment

2-minute read

It’s normal to feel shocked and to experience a range of emotions when first diagnosed with breast cancer but there are many effective treatment options.

The type of treatment for breast cancer depends on:

  • the type of breast cancer
  • the stage of breast cancer (whether and how far the cancer has spread)
  • whether breast cancer cells are hormone receptor positive, which means their growth is fueled by exposure to female hormones
  • whether the woman has had breast cancer before and if so, what treatments she received
  • the woman’s age and general health
  • the woman’s preference

Treatment options

Surgery

Breast-conserving surgery, also called lumpectomy, involves removing the cancer and some healthy tissue from the breast while keeping the breast intact. A mastectomy involves removing the whole breast affected by the cancer. During breast surgery one or more lymph nodes are usually removed from the arm.

Radiotherapy

Radiation is used to destroy any breast cancer cells left in the breast or breast tissue after surgery. Treatment usually is given over 5-6 weeks. Radiation therapy can also be used to reduce the size of the cancer before surgery and to relieve pain or other symptoms.

Chemotherapy

Anti-cancer drugs are given intravenously or orally to help destroy cancer cells that may have spread to other areas of the body undetected. It may be used in addition to surgery and radiation therapy.

Hormonal therapy

Hormonal therapy may be used to destroy remaining breast cancer cells or cancer cells that may have spread undetected. This drug treatment is used if the cancer cells are hormone-receptive.

Cancer Council Australia can provide more information on cancer treatments through their website. They also offer support for you and your loved ones via their helpline on 13 11 20.

Last reviewed: July 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the breast. These cells can invade the breast and surrounding tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Read more on WA Health website

Secondary breast cancer | Cancer Australia

Secondary breast cancer is invasive breast cancer that has spread from the breast to other parts of the body

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Breast Cancer in Young Women

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for women aged 20-39 years. Breast cancers in young women tend to have different characteristics and poorer survival outcomes compared with older women.

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Are you at risk of breast cancer? - Australasian Menopause Society

Are you worried you may be at risk of breast cancer? Put the risk factors for breast cancer in perspective the greatest risk factor for breast cancer is a family history of breast cancer in a close relative.

Read more on Australasian Menopause Society website

Types of breast cancer | Cancer Australia

There are several different types of breast cancer.

Read more on Cancer Australia website

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

The cause of breast cancer is still unknown, however research has identified a number of factors that increase the chances (risk) of developing breast cancer.

Read more on WA Health website

Breast Cancer | Counterpart

Information about types of breast cancer, treatment options and life after treatment

Read more on Counterpart - Women supporting women with cancer website

Breast cancer treatment | Cancer Australia

This section provides an overview of treatment options for breast cancer.

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Breast Cancer Treatment - Targeting Cancer

Learn more about breast cancer and the treatments available.

Read more on Radiation Oncology Targeting Cancer website

Early Detection of Breast Cancer | myVMC

Early detection methods for breast cancer include screening mammography,clinical breast examination (carried out by a trained health professional) and breast awareness. Diagnosis improving strategy for early breast cancer detection including self-examination.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo