Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Does cancer therapy always involve chemo?"
Are there any forms of cancer when one can skip this? My mother has breast cancer. She doesn't want chemo.
Chemotherapy is not part of every type of cancer treatment; therapy is tailored on an individual basis, based upon the co-morbidities of the patient, the extent of the cancer at the time of diagnosis, the specific type of cancer, and the overall prognosis of the patient. In some cases, if a tumor is diagnosed early, surgery may be curative and chemotherapy will not be needed. In some cases of breast cancer, the mainstay of treatment may be surgery and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy may or may not be a part of the treatment depending on the molecular makeup of the tumor. Tumors that are positive in estrogen/progesterone receptors are often treated with oral medications such as tamoxifen, and patients may not need to undergo cycles of therapy with the more conventional toxic medications which cause systemic symptoms such as fatigue, nausea and hair loss. If the tumor has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body at the time of diagnosis, or if the tumor cells lack the receptors targeted by medications like Tamoxifen and Herceptin, then traditional chemotherapy may be an important part of the patient's treatment plan.
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