Cancer Therapy

Adjuvant Cancer Therapy (A-joo-vant THAYR-uh-pee)Couches Chairs Rugs Lobby

Treatment given after the primary cancer treatment to increase the chances of a cure. Adjuvant cancer therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or biological therapy.

The primary breast cancer treatment is an operation to remove the tumor. Regrettably, after the tumor is surgically removed the cancer may still return. If it is concluded that you have a high risk of breast cancer returning, adjuvant cancer therapy may be recommended to help prevent your breast cancer from coming back.

There are two types of adjuvant cancer treatment options:
Local adjuvant cancer therapy – is directed on a certain area to destroy any cancer cells left after surgical removal of a tumor. Local adjuvant cancer therapy consists of radiation treatments to the breast, chest wall or armpit. Local adjuvant radiation therapy is typically recommended for patients that:

  • Have a lumpectomy rather than mastectomy
  • Their tumor is typically larger than 2 inches
  • Their tumor has moved into the chest wall muscles
  • Multiple lymph nodes were involved with the tumor
  • Have a case of inflammatory breast cancer

About three to six weeks after surgery, local adjuvant cancer radiation treatment usually begins. If you choose chemotherapy and radiation as adjuvant therapy, you usually receive chemotherapy first, followed by the radiation. Radiation can be given at the same time as adjuvant hormone therapy if you choose that path. The risk of breast cancer recurrence is no different if you choose lumpectomy with radiation or mastectomy without radiation.

Systemic adjuvant therapy – covers the entire body in hopes of destroying any cancer cells that may have moved to other parts of the body. Some cells, too small to be seen, may have been missed during your primary treatment. Any cancer cells that may have spread, even if they cannot be detected by radiologic or laboratory tests may remain dormant for some time before growing. It may be recommended that you think about systemic adjuvant cancer therapy, because it covers your entire body.

Chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy or a combination of these therapies may be suggested. Adjuvant cancer therapy may destroy or help to control cancer throughout your body to help you live longer and cancer-free.

Neither of these cancer treatment options — alone or in combination — makes it possible to know precisely who needs adjuvant cancer therapy after surgery or if you can gain any benefit from the therapy. The choice must be made by you after carefully evaluating the options, risks and benefits of either cancer treatment therapy.
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