Breast Cancer Treatment

What are the different treatments for breast cancer?

Treatment for breast cancer is not the same for every woman. The choice of treatment depends on many factors, including the extent of spread (stage) of the cancer, the precise type of cancer (there are many different kinds of breast cancers), the overall health status of the patient, and the patient's preferences. Types of treatments include:

Managing side effects of breast cancer treatment

Chemotherapy and other types of breast cancer treatment can produce unpleasant side effects, but fortunately, there are treatments available today to help minimize these reactions to the drugs. In general, side effects depend upon the exact drug or combination of drugs being given.

Nausea as a side effect of breast cancer treatment

Nausea is one example of a common side effect that can occur with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, or targeted therapy. Many people find that eating small amounts of food at a time helps. Others recommend ginger-based foods, not lying down after eating, and rinsing your mouth before and after meals. Your doctor can also prescribe medications that can be given before and after the cancer treatment, or can be taken along with pain medications if changing your eating habits does not bring relief.

Fatigue as a side effect of breast cancer treatment

Fatigue is perhaps the most common side effects of all forms of breast cancer treatment. Your doctor can help you develop a plan to manage fatigue, which may include dietary changes, physical activity, planning activities during peak energy times for you, and accepting assistance when it is available and needed. Many people find relief from complementary and alternative medicine techniques.

While you may feel that you're too tired to exercise, moderate activity actually helps improve quality of life in those receiving cancer treatment. The American Cancer Society recommends about 4 hours of physical activity per week for people with breast cancer. If you're not used to exercise, starting slowly, even walking for 15 minutes at a time, can still be a benefit. Gentle exercises like some forms of yoga or tai chi are another good way to participate in regular exercise and keep moving. Studies have shown that remaining physically active is associated with the best treatment outcomes, as well.

Whatever side effects you may be having, your health care team can discuss a management plan with you to help minimize these reactions and improve your quality of life during cancer treatment.

Medically reviewed by Jay B. Zatzkin, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Medical Oncology