Switch to Standard View

Helping Guide Your Early-Stage Breast Cancer Treatment Decisions.

Penny - A breast cancer survivor - and her husband celebrating.

Which Breast Cancer Treatment is Right for Me?

Invasive Breast Cancer Treatment Options

As you know, in order for you and your doctor to determine whether breast cancer chemotherapy treatment will be appropriate for you (in addition to hormone therapy), it is important to understand both the benefits and the risks associated with chemotherapy. You can start by assessing how likely it is that your breast cancer will return. This can be done using diagnostic tests, which specifically determine this likelihood.

If you have a low chance of your breast cancer returning, you may decide that the benefit of chemotherapy may not be large enough to outweigh the risk of side effects. If you have a high likelihood of your breast cancer returning, you may find that the potential benefit of chemotherapy outweighs the potential side effects. More information on both the benefits and the risks of chemotherapy as a breast cancer treatment option appears below.

How can you and your doctor assess the likelihood that your breast cancer will return? In the Just Diagnosed section of this site, we discuss some of the characteristics of your breast cancer that your doctor will take into consideration. If your breast cancer is early-stage, ER+ and lymph node-negative, the Oncotype DX® test can provide additional insight into your individual likelihood of your breast cancer recurring.

Benefits Of Chemotherapy in Invasive Breast Cancer Treatment

When used appropriately, chemotherapy offers benefits for certain breast cancer patients that may outweigh the risks associated with side effects. Specifically, chemotherapy:

  • can reduce the number of cancer cells that spread to other parts of the body, reducing the likelihood that breast cancer will return and potentially prolonging life
  • can be used before surgery to shrink larger tumors, making less invasive surgery possible

Risks Of Chemotherapy in Invasive Breast Cancer Treatment

The following list is an overview of possible short- and long-term side effects that can occur as a result of chemotherapy treatment. Keep in mind that some side effects are temporary, and others can be minimized through medication and management by your breast cancer physician.

  • Hair loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Infection
  • Fatigue
  • Nerve pain and muscle pain
  • Decrease in red blood cells and/or white blood cells
  • Heart disorders
  • Leukemia

The side-effect profiles vary for each chemotherapeutic drug. For information about the risks associated with specific therapies, please consult your treating healthcare provider.

Although chemotherapy may cause side effects that affect quality of life, it is important to remember the potential benefits of chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer as well. In addition, it is important to note that there are medications available to minimize some of the side effects of chemotherapy. You and your healthcare team should carefully consider the benefits and risks of chemotherapy before deciding whether it is appropriate for your individual breast cancer diagnosis.

Non-Invasive / Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) Breast Cancer Treatment Options

By revealing the underlying biology of DCIS, we can now help quantify the likelihood of local recurrence, which is key to devising an individualized treatment plan which will provide excellent outcomes for patients with the least treatment, toxicity, and disruption of daily life.

The Genomic Health Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay for DCIS patients is the first clinically validated genomic test to provide an individualized prediction of the 10-year risk of local recurrence (DCIS or invasive carcinoma) to help guide treatment decision-making in women with ductal carcinoma in situ treated by local excision, with or without tamoxifen.

The Oncotype DX DCIS Score is appropriate for patients who have undergone a lumpectomy with estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+) or estrogen-receptor-negative (ER-), and have been recently diagnosed with DCIS.

*Note: Validation studies have already been performed on the Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay for patients with pre-invasive or DCIS, node-negative and node-positive, estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer; for single gene reporting quantitative of ER (estrogen receptor), PR (progesterone receptor negative) and HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) genes, and for patients treated with Tamoxifen or an Aromatase Inhibitor. The Oncotype DX breast cancer tests are currently commercially available. For detailed information please call: (866) ONCOTYPE or visit www.oncotypedx.com

Source For This Page:
Bonadonna, Gianni, Gabriel N. Hortobagyi, and A. Massimo Gianni, eds. Textbook of Breast Cancer: A Clinical Guide to Therapy. 2nd ed. London: Martin Dunitz, 2001.

Back to Top


Is the Oncotype DX® test right for you?

Find out if you could benefit from the Oncotype DX test by completing our simple candidate profile.

Take the Eligibility Quiz

Questions To Ask Your Doctor

Get a list of questions and talking points to help you talk to your doctor.

View Discussion Guide