Once one is diagnosed with breast cancer, no time should be lost in beginning the treatment. When the disease is diagnosed, it can be at any stage. The chances of the treatment working, and being successful is more if the diagnosis takes place at an earlier stage. This is when chemotherapy is suggested by cancer specialists. Chemotherapy is the first step in the treatment of breast cancer, and it can be well continued after the surgery is over. However, once the disease is diagnosed, the treatment very much starts with chemotherapy.
So, What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy refers to the use of anti-cancer drugs for destroying the cancer cells. The task of chemotherapy is to stop the cancer cells from growing. The faster it spreads, the worst it will be for the patient. There are many chemotherapy drugs that are being administered by the doctors, and often a combination of drugs is also used. There might be side effects, so it is better to consult the doctor, and report if there are any issues.
Why is chemotherapy necessary before cancer surgery
Many are unaware of the need for getting the patient started on chemo right after the test results are positive for breast cancer. They often ask Why Chemo Before Breast Cancer Surgery? Well, there is reason for everything. Doctors often continue with chemotherapy sessions after the surgery, but that does not mean that it cannot be started from before. Depending on the condition of the patient, and the stage of the cancer, chemotherapy is prescribed to the patient. Generally, chemotherapy is suggested to patients who have a large tumour, and it is spreading to the surrounding tissue. Those with inflammatory breast cancer might also be undergoing chemo before the surgery. When chemo is administered before the surgery, it is also known as neoadjuvant therapy.
This benefits one in two ways:
- The tumour shrinks in size, which means the scale of the surgery is also diminished. On examination, the doctor might find that only lumpectomy is enough for the patient rather than mastectomy or removing the entire breast.
- It also decreases the risk of the cancer cells re-growing again
Though chemotherapy in the earlier stages of the disease is suggested, it is not routine. It is only advised when the cancer is large or aggressive.
How is Chemotherapy Given?
The treatment is administered through a drip in the arm or hand. A small tube is inserted into one of the veins and then a drip is connected to the same. There is a central line, which is a long plastic tube that pushes the drugs into the larger vein, either in the chest or through a vein in the arm.
What factors Play a Role in Deciding Chemo Before Surgery
Since the question Why Chemo Before Breast cancer surgery obviously rings in the minds of many patients or their family members, doctors point out that it helps in taking a decision for the course of treatment. Whether lumpectomy or mastectomy will be the choice depends upon several factors like:
- The age of the patient
- The size of the cancer
- The grade of the cancer
- The age of the patient
- The cancer’s hormone-receptor status
- The number of lymph nodes that have cancer cells in them (if any)
- The cancer’s HER2 status
Cancer is a deadly disease, but its diagnosis at the earlier stages increases the rate of survival of the patient. Chemo is just one of the many things that the patient has to undergo. Hence, whether to take it before or not is solely judged by the condition of the patient, and the doctor’s approval.