Chemotherapy is most commonly used after breast cancer surgery to kill any cancer cells that may be left in the breast or lymph nodes or in other parts of your body. When it is used after surgery, it is referred to as adjuvant chemotherapy.
Sometimes doctors suggest chemotherapy and other treatments be given before breast cancer surgery. This is called neoadjuvant therapy.
There are a number of reasons why neoadjuvant chemotherapy may be offered to you.
What is neoadjuvant chemotherapy?
With neoadjuvant chemotherapy, you are likely to be given the same chemotherapy drugs that you would be given if you have chemotherapy after your surgery. The aim of treatment is to shrink the tumour in the breast, along with any other breast cancer cells that may be present elsewhere in the body, by killing those cancers cells.
There are some benefits in having neoadjuvant chemotherapy, but it is not for everyone. You may want to consider your options carefully.
Why might neoadjuvant chemotherapy be recommended for me?
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy may be recommended:
- To reduce the size of your breast cancer (tumour) if it is too big to be removed in an operation
- If you have inflammatory breast cancer
- To reduce the size of the tumour so that you can have breast conserving surgery (lumpectomy) instead of mastectomy
- To reduce the size of the tumour so that a smaller amount of tissue can be removed – this may give you a better cosmetic outcome
- To give you time to have genetic testing if you have a strong family history of breast cancer – you may decide to have a different type of surgery if you are found to have an inherited breast cancer gene mutation
- To delay surgery if you are pregnant so that you can deliver your baby as near to full term as possible (certain breast cancer chemotherapy drugs have been found to be safe in pregnancy)
- To give you time to consider your surgical options, including breast reconstruction