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About Breast Cancer>Treatments>Chemotherapy > Common regimens (for early stage breast cancer)

Common regimens (for early stage breast cancer)

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There are many different types of chemotherapy medicines. These may be given alone, called single-agent therapy. But in many cases, a combination of two or more medicines, called a regimen, are given together or in sequence to treat early-stage breast cancer.

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 receptor status, size of the tumor, and whether the lymph 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 chemotherapy regimen will be given. The medicines are put directly into your bloodstream, usually by vein 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 medicine. 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 cancer, most doctors believe combination chemotherapy is more effective than single-agent therapy. 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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Reviewed and updated: August 31, 2015

Reviewed by: Laura M. Spring, MD

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