Contraception and fertility


Chemotherapy treatment

Chemotherapy uses medication to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. It affects cells throughout your body and is used to reduce the risk of cancer returning in your breast or growing in other parts of your body.

You may want to read more about Chemotherapy/Hahau here.

When chemotherapy treatment is given

Chemotherapy is usually given after surgery and before radiation treatment. It may be given:

• if the cancer is hormone receptor-negative

• if the cancer is HER2 positive

• when the risk of cancer returning is high.

If you are diagnosed with early breast cancer you may be given one or a combination of different chemotherapy medications.

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How chemotherapy is given


Chemotherapy is given into a vein (intravenously). It may be given through a cannula, this is a small tube that is put into a vein in your arm or the back of your hand and is removed after each treatment. When there is difficulty finding a suitable vein, or when treatment is given for a long period of time, you may need a central venous access device (CVAD) such as a portacath or a PICC which stays in place for the whole of your treatment. For more information on CVADs go here.

Treatment is usually given to you as an outpatient at your local treatment centre, at regular intervals over several months. It may be helpful to know that not all people with breast cancer will receive the same treatment.

Chemotherapy before surgery(neoadjuvant chemotherapy)

Some people may be offered chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the cancer and make it easier to remove or to reduce the chance of some higher-risk cancers returning.

Side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy side effects vary depending on the combination of medications you receive. Some of the common side effects that you may experience include:

  • increased risk of infection
  • hair loss
  • infertility
  • fatigue
  • forgetfulness and concentration problems (chemo brain)
  •  nausea and vomiting
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • numbness and tingling in your hands and feet (peripheral
  • neuropathy)
  • sore mouth and ulcers.

Go here for information on managing side effects.


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