Postsurgical Therapy - Breast Cancer
Cancer can return or spread after surgery. This can happen soon after surgery or years later. When treating breast cancer, your doctor will try to estimate the risk of cancer returning, and use this information to determine how much treatment to recommend. Your doctor’s estimate is based on:
- Whether the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes
- The size of your cancer
- How aggressive the cancer looks under the microscope
- Whether the cancer has certain receptors on its surface that are present on normal breast cells
Although these criteria have been used to predict outcome for decades, there are newer tests — available for certain cancers — that are much more accurate. These newer tests evaluate the genetic abnormalities in your cancer (which is not the same as testing your genes).
Surgery and radiation therapy are designed to lower the risk of local recurrence (keeping the cancer from coming back in the breast). Chemotherapy and hormone therapy can be used to keep the cancer from spreading elsewhere in your body. They can be extremely effective. But, they are not helpful in all patients. So, we try to use them selectively. Using chemotherapy or hormone therapy after surgery is called adjuvant therapy.