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The main treatments for breast cancer| are surgery|, radiotherapy|, chemotherapy|, hormonal treatment| and newer targeted treatments, such as trastuzumab| (Herceptin®).
We have more information about treatments for breast cancer.
Surgery and radiotherapy to the breast, especially involving the armpit (axilla), can result in pain|, limited movement of the shoulder or arm, or swelling of the arm (lymphoedema|). Women who’ve had part of the breast removed followed by radiotherapy may find the treated breast shrinks| slightly over time so the breasts are a different size from each other.
Chemotherapy may cause an early menopause|, and some chemotherapy drugs can cause changes in sensation, such as pins and needles or numbness in your hands and feet.
Hormonal therapies can cause side effects similar to menopausal symptoms and some may cause joint and muscle pain. Trastuzumab (Herceptin®) and some chemotherapy drugs can cause changes in the way the heart works.
Cancer treatment can also cause more general changes in how you feel. You may be more tired| than usual for several months after treatment or have difficulty concentrating| or remembering things. These effects may improve over time, but some are permanent. Most women have mild treatment effects which eventually go away over time.
Treatment for breast cancer is constantly developing and women are living for longer as a result of improved treatments. We’re learning more about late effects and how they can be managed. Doctors and researchers are trying to make sure that women get the best treatment with as few side effects as possible.
Content last reviewed: 1 June 2010
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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