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Chemotherapy is treatment with one or more anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs aimed at preventing the breast cancer spreading or coming back. Not all patients need chemotherapy, though it is increasingly used as part of the treatment package in breast cancer.
Whether or not your Thames Breast Clinic oncologist recommends chemotherapy will depend on a number of factors, including your age, the grade of your breast cancer, the size of the cancer and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes. At the Thames Breast Clinic we also offer Oncotype DX testing if required. This test allows your oncologist to accurately predict how beneficial chemotherapy would be to your particular case, and thus allows a patient tailored approach.
There are several different chemotherapy drugs and a course of treatment generally combines two or three of these. A chemotherapy course is made up of repeated cycles of treatment, usually three to four few weeks apart, over a patient-tailored eight months. Chemotherapy drugs are usually given directly into your bloodstream, either by an injection directly into a vein or through a drip into a vein over a period of minutes or hours (an infusion). Chemotherapy may be given before surgery (called neoadjuvant chemotherapy) or more typically after your operation. Your Thames Breast Clinic Consultant oncologist will advise the most appropriate option for you.
Most women suffer some short-term side-effects with chemotherapy treatment. These include:
a sore mouth
muscle and joint aches
hair loss (anything from slight to complete)
It is important to remember that much can be done to help alleviate side effects, so if you do experience any of these, please tell your Thames Breast Clinic Oncologist or Breast Care Nurse.