One Chemo Medicine at a Time Seems Best for Metastatic Breast Cancer

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Treating metastatic breast cancer with one chemotherapy medicine at a time (monotherapy) is as effective as using two or more chemotherapy medicines at the same time (combination chemotherapy), according to a study. Monotherapy also was less likely to cause side effects and any side effects were likely to be less severe compared to combination chemotherapy.

Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Metastatic breast cancer is considered advanced-stage cancer. Chemotherapy is an important part of the treatment plan for metastatic breast cancers and there are a number of chemotherapy medicines that can be used. In some cases one chemotherapy medicine at a time is used. If one medicine stops working or causes severe side effects, there's usually another medicine that can be used.

Some doctors think that combination chemotherapy is better than monotherapy because combination chemotherapy attacks the cancer cells in more than one way. If some of the cancer cells become resistant to one of the combination chemotherapy medicines, the hope in that one of the other medicines in the combination will kill the cells. Still, most chemotherapy medicines may cause bothersome side effects that can be very serious. Each medicine in combination chemotherapy has its own set of potential side effects. So it's not surprising that side effects from combination chemotherapy may be worse than those caused by monotherapy.

In this study, researchers looked at the results of eight studies comparing monotherapy to combination chemotherapy to treat metastatic breast cancer. In six of the studies, women who got monotherapy did just as well as women who got combination chemotherapy. The other two studies had conflicting results. One found that women who got monotherapy did better than women who got combination chemotherapy. The other study found that women who got combination chemotherapy did better than women who got monotherapy. All of the studies found that side effects were more likely and more severe with combination chemotherapy.

Based on their analysis, the researchers concluded that monotherapy generally should be the first type of chemotherapy given to treat metastatic breast cancer.

If you've been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, your doctor will consider:

  • the specifics of the cancer
  • your treatment history
  • your overall health
  • your treatment preferences

when recommending treatment options. If chemotherapy will be part of your plan, you might want to talk to your doctor about this study and ask how these findings may affect your treatment plan. With the right information, you and your doctor can confidently choose the treatment plan that makes the most sense for you.

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