Common Chemotherapy Regimens for Early-Stage Breast Cancer

Updated 
August 31, 2015

There are many different types of chemotherapyinfo-icon medicines. These may be given alone, called single-agent therapyinfo-icon. But in many cases, a combination of two or more medicines, called a regimeninfo-icon, are given together or in sequence to treat early-stage breast cancerinfo-icon.

Your doctor will recommend a chemotherapy regimen for you based on a number of factors, including

  • the cancer’s traits, such as the HER2 status, hormone receptorinfo-icon status, size of the tumorinfo-icon and whether the lymphinfo-icon nodes contain cancer. All influence which chemotherapy regimen your doctor suggests.
  • the benefits of the medicines balanced with possible side effects
  • past or future treatments

Remember that many effective chemotherapy regimens are used to treat breast cancer. Each regimen has a different length, dosage and combination of medicines. Your treatment plan will be tailored to your unique needs.

How Chemotherapy Is Given

Your doctor will explain how your chemotherapyinfo-icon regimeninfo-icon will be given. The medicines are put directly into your bloodstream, usually by veininfo-icon through an IV (intravenously) but sometimes as pills or capsules. Some combinations are given all at once, while others are given sequentially, one (or several together) followed by another.

Usually, chemotherapy is given in cycles. Each cycle includes a day or several days of treatment, followed by a rest period of 1 to 3 weeks to give your body time to recover from the effects of the medicineinfo-icon. Treatment begins on the first day of each cycle, but the schedule varies depending on the medicines used. For example, some medicines are given only for one day, on the first day of the cycle, while others are given weekly for 2 weeks. Some treatments, mostly pills, are taken daily.

Treatment with chemotherapy usually lasts for 3 to 6 months depending on the medicines used.

For early-stage breast cancerinfo-icon, most doctors believe combination chemotherapyinfo-icon is more effective than single-agent therapyinfo-icon. It’s more likely to kill the cancer cells with lower doses of individual medicines and fewer side effects.

Researchers continue to compare standard combination therapies to new combinations that may work better.

The common chemotherapy regimens are:

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Article August 31, 2015