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Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy

What is neoadjuvant chemotherapy
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy refers to medicines that are administered before surgery for the treatment of breast cancer. Your doctors may recommend neoadjuvant chemotherapy due to the size of the tumor, since the drugs may shrink the tumor and give you more surgical options.In some cases, a woman who would have needed a mastectomy due to the large size of her tumor can become a candidate for lumpectomy by shrinking the invasive tumor prior to surgery. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is also performed for certain types of breast cancer, such as inflammatory breast cancer.

What is adjuvant chemotherapy?
Adjuvant (meaning "in addition to") chemotherapy refers to medicines administered after surgery for the treatment of breast cancer. Adjuvant chemotherapy is designed to prevent recurrence of the disease.

How is chemotherapy administered?
Chemotherapy is usually administered intravenously and given to patients in an outpatient setting. Our physicians at The Cancer Center are well trained to provide this treatment. There are some drugs that can be given orally. Some protocols call for a cycle of treatment every three weeks; others may be more frequent. Most women undergoing chemotherapy will have treatment for three to six months. The majority of women having chemotherapy are able to work while receiving treatment, only missing a few days from work at a given time.

Your medical oncologist takes measures to help reduce and prevent side effects from the drugs, most commonly gastrointestinal side effects. Each drug has different potential side effects, so patients should ask for information about their drugs. Hair loss is a common side effect, so we encourage patients to prepare for this eventuality. Red and white blood cells are also affected by chemotherapy, so exposure to people with colds or flu should be limited.

Last Updated: 7/15/2013