There are many different treatment approaches for early breast cancer. Personal characteristics such as your age and menopausal status, as well as the cancer's stage and hormone receptor status are considered when developing the best treatment approach for YOU. Every breast cancer is different and every treatment plan is different. One research study isn't likely to give you and your doctors all the answers about your treatment plan. Still, a new study, along with other research results and the knowledge and experience of your doctors, helps you and your doctor decide what is best for YOU.
Several points from this study are notable:
- Women who got chemotherapy for early breast cancer were 17% more likely to be alive 5 or more years after diagnosis. They were less likely to have a recurrence.
- Hormonal therapy is often used to treat early breast cancer. In this study, tamoxifen was the hormonal therapy used in ALL the women, whether or not they had chemotherapy. Tamoxifen works by blocking estrogen so it can't make the breast cancer grow. At the time the study was done, tamoxifen was the typical hormonal therapy used in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Today, premenopausal women still get tamoxifen. But postmenopausal women often receive a different hormonal therapy, an aromatase inhibitor, which works differently than tamoxifen. Aromatase inhibitors are believed to be somewhat better than tamoxifen in reducing the risk of recurrence.
- In PREMENOPAUSAL women, doctors may recommend either removing or suppressing the ovaries in addition to other treatments. Shutting down the ovaries with medication or removing them surgically are both very effective ways to reduce or eliminate your body's main source of estrogen. With less estrogen to fuel hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer cells, the growth of these cells may be controlled or stopped. This isn't done in postmenopausal women because their ovaries have already shut down. In this study, premenopausal women who had their ovaries removed or suppressed with medication didn't do any better than those who did not. But the researchers caution that there still may be a benefit to ovary removal or suppression in some premenopausal women.
If you are considering treatment options for early breast cancer, these research results are worth considering. Still, they don't mean that chemotherapy is definitely right for you or that removing or suppressing your ovaries is definitely wrong for you. Your treatment plan should address YOUR specific situation and give YOU the best care possible. Learning as much as you can and talking about it with your doctor is a very important part of that.