Several treatments are currently being used to treat breast cancer. Surgery is used in most cases of breast cancer, usually used to remove breast tumor. Radiation and chemotherapy are both used to treat breast cancer. Hormone therapy and targeted therapy are also commonly used to treat breast cancer.
When it comes to treating cancers, chemotherapy drugs have proven extremely effective in the long run. Most cancer patients undergo some form of chemotherapy, depending on the severity of their cancer. The cancer treatment of chemotherapy uses drugs called cytostatics to halt cancer cells uncontrollably dividing.
Chemotherapy is used in cancer treatment to accomplish a variety of goals. This leads to a differentiation between four common types of chemotherapy.
- Curative Chemotherapy: The goal of curative chemo is to eliminate all cancer cells from the body and achieve a permanent cure.
- Adjuvant chemotherapy: Adjuvant chemotherapy seeks out cancer cells that may be left in the body after surgery, but cannot be detected. It is a supportive therapy used to prevent recurrences
- Neoadjuvant chemotherapy: Neoadjuvant chemo is done before surgery as a way to shrink tumors that are too big to be directly operated on.
- Palliative chemotherapy: Palliative chemo is chemotherapy used to help relieve certain symptoms, slow down progress, and avoid complications of cancer cells that it is no longer possible to remove
There are a multitude of chemotherapy drugs available. These drugs can be divided into several commonly used groups of medication. The groups are divided based on how they work, their chemical structure, and their relationship to another drug. The commonly-used types of chemotherapy drugs are: alkylating agents, antimetabolites, antitumor antibiotics, Mitotic inhibitors and corticosteroids.
The group of chemotherapy drugs known as alkylating agents directly attack and damage DNA as a way to prevent cancer cells from reproducing. These drugs work in all phases of the cell cycle and development. Several cancers are treated with alkylating agents, including leukemia, lymphoma, sarcoma, multiple myeloma and lung, breast, and ovary cancer.
Some of the known alkylating agents are cyclophosphamide, carmustine, busulfan, temozolomide and altretamine.
Antimetabolites are a class of chemotherapy drugs that interfere with both DNA and RNA growth through substituting normal building blocks of RNA and DNA. Cells in the S phase of the cell cycle are attacked by this group of drugs. Antimetabolites are commonly used to treat leukemias, breast cancer, ovary cancer, and intestinal tract cancer. Some examples of antimetabolites include 5-fluorouracil, Capecitabine, Gemcitabine, and Pemetrexed
The most common group of antitumor antibiotics chemotherapy drugs are known as anthracyclines. Anthracyclines interfere with enzymes involved in DNA replication, working in all phases of the cell cycle, They are commonly used in the treatment of a variety of cancers. Popular examples of anthracyclines include daunorubicin, doxorubicin, epirubicin, and idarubicin. Other non-anthracycline antitumor antibiotics include actinomycin-D, bleomycin, and mitomycin-C.
Mitotic inhibitors are a group of chemotherapy drugs, usually derived from natural products, used to stop or inhibit enzymes from making proteins necessary from cell reproduction. These drugs work primarily during the M phase of the cell cycle, but can damage cells in all phases. Many cancers are treated with mitotic inhibitors, including breast, lung, myelomas, lymphomas, and leukemias. Common mitotic inhibitors include paclitaxel, ixabepilone, vincristine, and estramustine.
Steroids are natural hormones and hormone-like drugs that have proven effective in treating some types of cancers, along with other illnesses. They are considered a group of chemotherapy drugs when they are used to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Corticosteroids are commonly used to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by chemo and may also be used to prevent severe allergic reactions. These uses are not considered chemotherapy. Popular examples include prednisone, methylprednisolone, and dexamethasone.