Breast Cancer Drugs: Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you know there is so much information to take in. That includes understanding the many treatment options available. In addition to surgery and radiation, breast cancer drugs are often another piece of the treatment puzzle your care team will create for you. There are many different kinds of breast cancer drugs that work in different ways, so let us help you walk through the possibilities for treatment.

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Below is an overview of common breast cancer drugs, some of which may be part of your treatment plan.

Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Drugs

Chemotherapy is perhaps the most recognized breast cancer drug. Some breast cancer patients are given chemotherapy as their only treatment. But more often than not, chemotherapy is used in combination with other breast cancer drugs or treatment options. It can be used to kill cancer cells that remain after surgery or radiation, decrease the chance cancer will return anywhere in the body, as well as stop or slow its growth. It can also be used to help shrink tumors before surgery or radiation.

Chemotherapy works by targeting fast-growing cells in the body, which includes both cancer cells and some other, healthy cells. Damage to these cells commonly causes side effects such as nausea and hair loss.

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Loma Linda University Cancer Center
11234 Anderson St, Suite A600, Loma Linda, CA 92354
909-558-2262
Loma Linda University Health – Beaumont – Banning
Oncology
81 South Highland Springs Ave., Suite 201, Beaumont, CA 92223
909-558-2262
Loma Linda University Health – Beaumont – Banning
Radiation Oncology
81 South Highland Springs Ave., Suite 105, Beaumont, CA 92223
800-496-4966
Loma Linda University Professional Office Building – Murrieta
Oncology Nurse Navigator
28078 Baxter Rd., Suite 130, Murrieta, CA 92563
951-290-4148
Loma Linda University Professional Office Building – Murrieta
Radiation Oncology
28078 Baxter Rd., Suite 130, Murrieta, CA 92563
951-290-4162
Loma Linda University Professional Office Building – Murrieta
Women's Diagnostic Imaging Center
28078 Baxter Rd., Suite 220, Murrieta, CA 92563
951-290-4860
Loma Linda University Professional Office Building – Murrieta
Faculty Surgical Oncology Medical Offices
28078 Baxter Rd., Suite 510, Murrieta, CA 92563
909-558-2262
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There are many different kinds of breast cancer chemotherapy drugs. The drug or combination of drugs your doctor prescribes may depend on these factors:

The functions of breast cancer drugs used to treat patients vary—some kill cancer cells and shrink tumors while others improve symptoms and even slow or prevent the spread of cancer. And it can be difficult to understand what drugs may benefit you.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a type of breast cancer drug that boosts the patients’ own immune system to help kill cancer cells. These types of breast cancer drugs may be an option to women who have metastatic cancer or cancer that cannot be surgically removed. Two types of immunology breast cancer drugs have been created and approved to treat some women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer in combination with chemotherapy.

Although immunotherapy may be a treatment option for these specific patients, it can also lead to side effects. In addition to increasing the ability of the immune system to attack cancer cells, it may increase the likelihood that the immune system will attack healthy cells as well. If you are a candidate for immunotherapy, it’s important to talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits.

It’s estimated that two of every three breast cancers are hormone-sensitive breast cancers. That means the cancer is fed by estrogen or progesterone, causing them to grow and spread. If hormones affect your breast cancer, you may benefit from breast cancer hormone therapy also called endocrine therapy. This breast cancer drug is often combined with other therapies to treat your cancer or slow it’s spread.

There are different types of breast cancer hormone therapies that work in different ways. Some help lower the amount of hormones in the body. Others interfere with how cancer cells are affected by them. Typically, breast cancer hormone therapy needs to be taken for five years or more.

The type of hormone-related breast cancer drug you receive will depend on a number of factors—from your stage of breast cancer to whether or not you’ve been through menopause. Sometimes, breast cancer patients may begin one breast cancer hormone therapy and later move to a different one depending on their circumstances.

Targeted therapy breast cancer drugs are a newer type of drug designed to find and target specific changes in cells that cause cancer. For example, targeted therapy can stop the growth of breast cancer cells by blocking how abnormal proteins stimulate their growth. Lab testing can show whether a patient has these abnormal proteins and match them with a targeted therapy.

Targeted drugs can reach cells throughout the body, but do not damage healthy cells. The therapy is often used in combination with other breast cancer drugs such as chemotherapy, but does not cause severe side effects.

Learning More

The functions of breast cancer drugs used to treat patients vary—some kill cancer cells and shrink tumors while others improve symptoms and even slow or prevent the spread of cancer. And it can be difficult to understand what drugs may benefit you.

Patient navigators are registered nurses trained in oncology care to guide you through the challenges of dealing with cancer. They are here to support you as you go through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Contact the Patient Navigator team at 800-782-2623.

The Breast Health Center at Loma Linda University Cancer Center offers comprehensive breast cancer therapies and takes the time to make sure patients understand their options and recommended course of treatment. As a patient at the Breast Health Center, you have the opportunity to talk with your doctor about your overall treatment plan, including the use of breast cancer drugs.