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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Understanding the side effects of chemotherapy

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Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses chemical substances, especially one or more anti-cancer drugs. Research suggests a chemotherapy alternative for early-stage breast cancer. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine of the 10,253 eligible women enrolled, 1626 women (15.9 percent ) received hormone blocking therapy and no chemo. After five years, less than one percent had their cancer recur in a distant part of their body.

Cancer researchers say early-stage breast cancer patients may have alternatives to chemotherapy. NYU Langone Medical Center’s Dr. Marleen Meyers recently commented on the latest treatment options during an interview with CBS News, “The old way we used to practice oncology was one size fits all, meaning if you were a woman and you had breast cancer that’s all we needed to know … you got chemo. We always believed that chemotherapy was needed for everybody. The more we learned, the more finesse [we gained], we understood about the biology, which is really the key to breast cancer treatment. We learned some women don’t need chemo and can do perfectly fine without it. Other women need chemotherapy plus additional drugs that may target other genes in the breast cancer. So it leads to new research and new interventions.”

The hormone blocking therapy spares patients the side effects of chemotherapy.

“The important things for women to remember is number one, breast cancer is not a death sentence. Number two, breast cancer does not always require chemotherapy. And, number three, always discuss [your options] with your doctors,” she adds.

Effects of chemotherapy is a trusted health information resource for over 30 million people. All content undergoes a rigorous editorial process.

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