Breast Cancer (cont.)

Taking part in cancer research

Cancer research has led to real progress in the prevention, detection, and treatment of breast cancer. Continuing research offers hope that in the future even more women with breast cancer will be treated successfully.

Doctors all over the country are conducting many types of clinical trials (research studies in which people volunteer to take part). Clinical trials are designed to find out whether new approaches are safe and effective.

Even if the people in a trial do not benefit directly, they may still make an important contribution by helping doctors learn more about breast cancer and how to control it. Although clinical trials may pose some risks, doctors do all they can to protect their patients.

Doctors are trying to find better ways to care for women with breast cancer. They are studying many types of treatment and their combinations:

  • Radiation therapy: In women with early breast cancer who have had a lumpectomy, doctors are comparing the effectiveness of standard radiation therapy aimed at the whole breast to that of radiation therapy aimed at a smaller part of the breast.

  • Chemotherapy and targeted therapy: Researchers are testing new anticancer drugs and doses. They are looking at new drug combinations before surgery. They are also looking at new ways of combining chemotherapy with targeted therapy, hormone therapy, or radiation therapy. In addition, they are studying lab tests that may predict whether a woman might be helped by chemotherapy.

  • Hormone therapy: Doctors are testing several types of hormone therapy, including aromatase inhibitors. They are looking at whether hormone therapy before surgery may help shrink the tumor.

  • Supportive care: Doctors are looking at ways to lessen the side effects of treatment, such as lymphedema after surgery. They are looking at ways to reduce pain and improve quality of life.

If you're interested in being part of a clinical trial, talk with your doctor.

The NCI Web site includes a section on clinical trials at It has general information about clinical trials as well as detailed information about specific ongoing studies of breast cancer. Information specialists at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) or at LiveHelp at can answer questions and provide information about clinical trials.


Portions of the above information have been provided with the kind permission of the National Cancer Institute (

Last Editorial Review: 10/15/2009

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