Breast Cancer: What Is Chemotherapy?

Health Monitor Staff
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Chemotherapy (chemo) medication can be used to shrink (and possibly eliminate) a tumor before surgery and to kill cancerous cells that remain in the body after surgery. Chemo is also used to stop cancerous cells that travel beyond the tumor’s primary site in the breast.

It might be right for you if:

You have invasive breast cancer that is hormone receptor-negative, your tumor is hormone receptor-positive and you choose to have chemo along with hormone therapy, your tumor is large and needs to be shrunk prior to surgery (this is called neoadjuvant therapy), you’ve had surgery and want to kill unseen cancer cells, or your cancer has spread and is now growing in other locations, such as your bones, liver or lungs.

What you should know:

In most cases, chemo is administered intravenously in a procedure known as an infusion. Some chemo medications are taken in the form of a pill, a liquid or by injection. It’s important to stay on the chemo schedule your healthcare provider has prescribed. If you skip a treatment, cancer cells could regrow. Also, strong chemo can reduce the number of infection-fighting white blood cells called neutrophils in your body and put you at risk for infection. Avoiding infection is important because it can disrupt your chemo schedule and also lead to life-threatening problems. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication that boosts white blood cells to prevent infection.

For more info on undergoing chemotherapy, visit

May 2013