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
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.
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.
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 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