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Goals of Breast Cancer Treatment

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Updated September 14, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer is like being drafted into an army.  You didn't choose this fight, but once you know your enemy, you make decisions about how to fight. Diane Foresee, two-time breast cancer survivor, says of treatment, "It's no picnic, but it's doable." Your battle with breast cancer will be fought within your own body, and it will be different than anybody else's battle. 

Be Armed and Focused For Battle:

Treatments are now being customized to each person to have the greatest possible effect against the cancer. You will have a lot of weapons and support during the fight, but sometimes the going will be difficult. It helps to remember the goals of breast cancer treatment:
  • Kill or control the cancer
  • Prevent a cancer recurrence
  • Extend your survival
  • Relieve cancer symptoms

Goals for Early Stage Breast Cancer Treatment:

Your personal goals of treatment will depend on your breast cancer diagnosis. If you have early-stage breast cancer, you want to remove all the cancer and do whatever it takes to prevent its return. Your main goal is to put your cancer into remission.

Goals for Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment:

If you have metastatic breast cancer, your goal may be to eliminate or control the spread of cancer as much as you can while having a good quality of life. Treatments may be included that help relieve pain and slow or halt the spread of cancer. Some cases of metastatic breast cancer can be treated as a chronic disease. Your goal is to have no evidence of progression and to live as long as possible despite the cancer.

Your Goals Affect Your Treatment Choices:

When you are choosing your treatment plan, keep your goals in mind. Try to take the long view of the battle and aim to win the war. Your priorities should be included in your decisions as to which treatment options you select. Tell your doctor and healthcare team about your preferences for treatment. Ask for help with any side effects and with quality of life concerns. Make the best choices you can, and then fight to win.

Sources:

What Are the Goals of Treatment With Chemotherapy? American Cancer Society. Last Revised: 06/17/2009.

Goals of Radiation Therapy. American Cancer Society. Last Revised: 07/17/2009.

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