Sometimes drug treatments for early breast cancer are given before breast cancer surgery. This is called neoadjuvant therapy.
If you have neoadjuvant therapy, it means your treatment may start with chemotherapy, targeted therapy or hormone-blocking therapy, usually given for several months before surgery.
Some treatments may continue after surgery.
There are some benefits in having neoadjuvant therapy, but it is not for everyone. You may want to consider your options carefully. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of neoadjuvant therapy. You may find Breast Cancer Trials Neoadjuvant Patient Decision Aid helpful in discussions with your treating doctor (see link below).
When neoadjuvant therapy may be recommended
Neoadjuvant therapy may be recommended:
- To reduce the size of the tumour so that you can have breast conserving surgery (lumpectomy) instead of removal of the whole breast (mastectomy).
- To reduce the size of the tumour so that a smaller amount of tissue can be removed – this may give you a better cosmetic outcome.
- If you have a fast-growing breast cancer such as inflammatory breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer or HER2 positive breast cancer.
- To reduce the number of lymph nodes that need to be removed from the armpit (axilla) – you may be able to have a sentinel lymph node biopsy that removes 1-3 nodes rather than more extensive axillary lymph node dissection.
- To give you time to have genetic testing if you have a strong family history of breast cancer – you may decide to have a different type of surgery if you are found to have an inherited breast cancer gene mutation.
- To determine how effective systemic therapy (e.g. chemotherapy, targeted therapy or hormone-blocking therapy) is in treating your breast cancer.
- To provide more information about the risk of the cancer coming back (recurrence.)
- To allow you to be eligible to participate in a neoadjuvant clinical trial.
- Breast Cancer Trials has a Neoadjuvant Patient Decision Aid to help people newly diagnosed with early breast cancer to learn about neoadjuvant treatment and make a decision on whether it is right for them.
- BCNA’s My Journey has an article about neoadjuvant treatment for early breast cancer.
- Cancer Australia has a position statement video about pre-operative chemotherapy or hormonal therapy.
- The Cancer Australia Statement – Influencing best practice in breast cancer is a summary of 12 practices that have been identified as appropriate or inappropriate for the provision of breast cancer care in Australia. Read more about neoadjuvant therapy practice eight.
BCNA’s My Journey
My Journey is where you go to get all your breast cancer information about your diagnosis in one place. Whether you have early breast cancer, DCIS or metastatic breast cancer, My Journey provides you with the latest information tailored to suit your situation. You can access this information through My Journey via an app or web browser at www.myjourney.org.au.