Common Chemotherapy Drugs For Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy drugs used to treat early breast cancer include:
What To Know About Leftover Oral Chemotherapy Drugs
You might be left with unused drugs when you finish treatment or if your treatment plan changes. These are powerful drugs, so you should never flush them down the toilet or sink. You also shouldnt put them in the trash.
Check with your pharmacist or doctors office. Many will take them off your hands or let you know how to dispose of them properly.
Will The Nhs Fund An Unlicensed Medicine
It’s possible for your doctor to prescribe a medicine outside the uses it’s licensed for if they’re willing to take personal responsibility for this ‘off-licence’ use of treatment.
Your local integrated care board may need to be involved, as it would have to decide whether to support your doctor’s decision and pay for the medicine from NHS budgets.
Page last reviewed: 28 October 2019 Next review due: 28 October 2022
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Longer Term Side Effects
Tiredness is commonly reported during treatment. This may be a direct effect of the drugs or may be due to other factors such as disrupted sleep patterns.
- Try to get adequate rest but also try to exercise regularly. Go for a walk outside each day as this can actually give you more energy.
- Find something that you actually enjoy doing and also try to incorporate exercise into your usual day, e.g. walk upstairs rather than taking the lift, park further away from where you want to go and walk the extra distance. Build this up gradually.
- Your GP, practice nurse or a physiotherapist can work with you to devise a specific exercise plan for you.
- Let others help when your energy levels are low.
If your fatigue doesn’t allow you to exercise, discuss this with your GP.
Usually energy levels recover after treatment finishes but this commonly takes time. In some cases full recovery may take 12 months or more.
Some people notice they are having concentration and short-term memory problems following their chemotherapy. This is often referred to as chemo brain. The severity and duration of symptoms differ from person to person. For some people the symptoms are very mild and resolve soon after treatment stops, but others may find their daily life is noticeably affected for a much longer period, restricting their ability to return to work in their pre-treatment capacity.
How Often Will I Need To Take Oral Or Topical Chemotherapy
How often you take oral or topical chemo and how long your treatment lasts depend on the kind of cancer you have, the goals of the treatment, the drugs being used, and how your body responds to them.
You may need treatments daily, weekly, or monthly, but theyre usually given in on-and-off cycles. This means, for example, that you may take chemo the first 2 weeks and then have a week off, making it a cycle that will start over every 3 weeks. The time off lets your body build healthy new cells and regain its strength.
Your cancer care team can tell you how many cycles are planned and how long they expect your treatment to last.
Many people wonder how long the actual drugs stay in their body and how theyre removed. Your kidneys and liver break down most chemo drugs which then leave your body through urine or stool. How long it takes your body to get rid of the drugs depends on many things, including the type of chemo you get, other medicines you take, your age, and how well your kidneys and liver work. Your cancer care team will tell you if you need to take any special precautions because of the drugs you are taking.
If your cancer comes back, you might have chemo again. This time, you could be given different drugs to relieve symptoms or to slow the cancers growth or spread. Side effects might be different, depending on the drugs, the doses, and how theyre given.
Increased Risk Of Leukemia
Very rarely, certain chemo drugs, such as doxorubicin , can cause diseases of the bone marrow, such as myelodysplastic syndromes or even acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of white blood cells. If this happens, it is usually within 10 years after treatment. For most women, the benefits of chemo in helping prevent breast cancer from coming back or in extending life are far likely to exceed the risk of this rare but serious complication.
When Should I Call My Doctor Or Oncologist
- You have a fever of 100.5Â°F or higher or chills.
- You have bleeding from your gums.
- You have nausea or vomiting and cannot take your chemo.
- You vomit after you take your oral chemo.
- You miss a dose of chemo.
- You have sores or white spots in your mouth.
- You have constipation or diarrhea for more than 1 day.
- You feel depressed.
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Who May Not Be A Good Candidate For Oral Chemotherapy
Not everyone is a good candidate for oral chemotherapy. If you know youll struggle to take your medication correctly, for example, avoid oral therapy and choose another treatment option.
Patients who are experiencing nausea, vomiting and/or who have difficulty swallowing are going to have a difficult time physically taking oral medications.
Some drug interactions may prohibit you from taking oral chemotherapy because certain drugs increase or decrease the absorption of other drugs. That could lead to toxicities, or it could cause the chemotherapy to not have as good of a result as it should.
If oral chemotherapy isnt a good option for you, but you have serious obstacles getting to an infusion center, ask your doctor about alternatives. For example, our CTCA Atlanta hospital is piloting our Oncology Clinic at Home program. This program allows certain patients who qualify to receive some chemotherapy or immunotherapy infusions or injections at home. Treatment is administered by licensed nurses who are trained in chemotherapy administration.
Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs that may be given intravenously or by mouth. The drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells in most parts of the body. Sometimes, if cancer spreads to the spinal fluid, which surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord, chemo may be given directly into in this area .
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Hormone Therapy After Surgery For Breast Cancer
After surgery, hormone therapy can be given to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Taking an AI, either alone or after tamoxifen, has been shown to work better than taking just tamoxifen for 5 years.
These hormone therapy schedules are known to be helpful for women who are post-menopausal when diagnosed:
- Tamoxifen for 2 to 3 years, followed by an AI for 2 to 3 years
- Tamoxifen for 2 to 3 years, followed by an AI for 5 years
- Tamoxifen for 4Â½ to 6 years, followed by an AI for 5 years
- Tamoxifen for 5 to 10 years
- An AI for 5 to 10 years
- An AI for 2 to 3 years, followed by tamoxifen for 2 to 3 years
- For women who are unable to take an AI, tamoxifen for 5 to 10 years is an option
For most post-menopausal women whose cancers are hormone receptor-positive, most doctors recommend taking an AI at some point during adjuvant therapy. Standard treatment is to take these drugs for about 5 years, or to take in sequence with tamoxifen for 5 to 10 years. For women at a higher risk of recurrence, hormone treatment for longer than 5 years may be recommended. Tamoxifen is an option for some women who cannot take an AI. Taking tamoxifen for 10 years is considered more effective than taking it for 5 years, but you and your doctor will decide the best schedule of treatment for you.
These therapy schedules are known to be helpful forwomen who are pre-menopausal when diagnosedï»¿:
What You Need To Know About Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Pills
People commonly associate chemotherapy with intravenous cancer drugs in a hospital or doctors office. This has been the traditional nonsurgical method of treating cancer.
Due to recent advances in cancer treatments, oral chemotherapy pills have become more widely used for many types of cancer. There are a few that are approved for breast cancer, including capecitabine , which is often used to treat metastatic breast cancer.
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Targeted Therapy Vs Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that works by killing fast-growing cells in your body to help prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells. It can be given as an oral medication or administered through an IV.
But because chemotherapy can kill both healthy and cancerous cells in your body, it can cause many side effects.
On the other hand, targeted therapy is a treatment that attacks cancer cells specifically by interfering with certain pathways that control their growth.
Unlike chemotherapy, targeted therapy is designed to only affect cancer cells, meaning that its less likely to harm the normal, healthy cells in your body. But targeted therapy pills do have side effects as well.
Furthermore, while chemotherapy kills off cancer cells that have already been produced, targeted therapy also works by preventing cancer cells from multiplying and spreading.
Targeted therapy can be administered orally or through an IV for the treatment of breast cancer. Its often used alone or in combination with other cancer treatments, including chemotherapy.
Is There A Xeloda Generic
Yes, Xeloda is the brand name for capecitabine. The Food and Drug Administration approved the Xeloda generic in 2013. It’s made the drug more widely available. The generic cost is typically lower, but it will vary widely depending on factors like your insurance coverage or how you buy it. The cost per month of capecitabine was $1,518 in 2014, according to data published through 2019 by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The drug company that makes the Xenoda brand also has a financial aid program.
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Quit Smoking Before Oral Cavity And Oropharyngeal Cancer Treatment
If you smoke, you should quit. Smoking during chemotherapy treatment can cause more side effects and can cause the chemo drugs to not work as well. It can give you a higher chance of getting an infection and is linked to worse outcomes. Smoking after treatment can also increase the risk of the cancer coming back and of getting another new cancer. Quitting smoking is the best way to improve your chances of survival. It is never too late to quit. For help, see How To Quit Using Tobacco.
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What Is A Chemo Pill
Oral chemotherapy is a chemotherapy treatment given by mouth, often in pill form, that kills cancer cells or stops them from dividing. Sometimes oral chemo is given concurrently with traditional IV chemo. Two oral chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer are:
Capecitabine. This is a common oral form of chemotherapy used for certain types of breast cancer. It interferes with cancer cells reproducing their DNA, which causes them to die instead of divide.
Cyclophosphamide. This is an oral form of chemotherapy that works by damaging a cancer cells genetic makeup, ultimately weakening or destroying it. It’s used in combination with two other chemotherapy drugs , methotrexate and fluorouracil.
However, people often conflate oral chemo with other treatments that are in pill form, says Elizabeth Comen, M.D., a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. For example, some other pills for that are not oral chemo include:
Hormonal therapies. A drug called Tamoxifen, for example, blocks estrogen and can be used to treat hormone receptor-positive breast cancers.
Targeted therapies. Medications such as CDK46 inhibitors or PARP inhibitors are more targeted cancer drugs that can be given orally. These medications may target specific proteins to help treat cancer.
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Helping To Bridge The Gap
Oral Chemotherapy Education was conceived by NCODA as a resource to provide information about oral chemotherapy drugs and their side effects to both cancer patients and caregivers. We know having cancer or caring for someone with it can be overwhelming, but finding reliable information about the medicines should not. We aim to help caregivers by providing them a tool to pass on to their patients with cancer that will answer drug related questions and help empower patients to become a more active participant in their cancer treatment.
The care of cancer patients in the United States is evolving at an increasingly rapid pace. From 2015 through the first four months of 2016, the FDA has had over 40 new drug approvals and safety notifications1. With all of these new treatment advancements, it is becoming increasingly difficult for healthcare professionals to obtain the optimal teaching materials to educate their patients. Confounding the issue, many of these new agents are oral medications, shifting the site of care from the oncology practice to the patients homes. In addition, the burden of patient education often rests solely with the cancer care team. Oral Chemotherapy Education is a concise, patient-friendly resource for both healthcare professionals and patients alike.
Are You Ready To Start Your Oral Or Topical Chemo
Here are some things you may want to talk to your cancer care team about when starting oral or topical chemo:
- Whats the name of the chemo? Is there more than one name for the same drug?
- How do I use it or take it?
- When should I use it or take it?
- Is it safe to take it with other drugs, food, vitamins, herbs, supplements, skin lotions, or other treatments I use?
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
- How should I store it?
- Is there a special way it needs to be handled to protect me and others?
- What do you expect it to do?
- What are the likely side effects? What should I do if I have side effects?
- How can I get in touch with you if I have trouble late at night or on the weekend?
- How long will I need to take the chemo?
- Will my insurance pay for my chemo? If not, how much will it cost? How will I pay for it?
- Will my other health problems stop me from being able to take the chemo the way I should? Is there a chance my other health problems could make me forget to take my chemo?
- Will you be calling me to find out how Im doing with the chemo?
- How often will you need to see me in person?
For oral chemo, be sure to also ask about certain questions about the pills, such as:
- What if I have trouble swallowing or keeping down the pills?
- Can they be opened, broken, or crushed?
- Can I mix it with food or liquid to take it?
Before starting chemo, talk to your doctor or nurse about any concerns or questions you have. Get answers to all of your questions about chemo before you start taking it.
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Is Chemotherapy The Only Treatment For Breast Cancer
No. Occasionally, chemotherapy is the only breast cancer treatment, but most often, healthcare providers use chemotherapy with other treatments, such as:
- Lumpectomy: Removing the tumor and a small amount of surrounding breast tissue.
- Mastectomy: Removing one or both breasts.
- Hormone therapy: Taking medicines that lower estrogen or block estrogens effects on cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy: Taking medicines that target the changes in cancer cells to destroy them or slow their growth.
- Radiation therapy: Using high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells.
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Will I Be Able To Work While I Am Having Treatment
Most women are able to continue working during chemotherapy if they wish to. If you plan to keep working, it helps to have a supportive work place that gives you flexible work hours. You may need to have a few days off after each cycle of chemotherapy and when you get back to work you may find it difficult to work long hours. Your doctor can provide a medical certificate for time off this can be just a few days or a few months depending on your individual situation.
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Disadvantages Of Oral Chemotherapy
One of the biggest disadvantages of oral chemotherapy is the fact that its not administered in a hospital or hospital-like setting, or by a healthcare professional. This means that users may run the risk of forgetting to take their medication or doing so incorrectly.
According to an older 2012 study , the longer a persons oral chemotherapy treatment lasts, the more likely a person is to eventually discontinue use of the drug without the guidance of their doctor. This can lead to treatment being less effective, worsening side effects, and high dosages if pills are taken closely together.
One other disadvantage of oral chemotherapy is that the pills can be extremely dangerous. According to the
Before starting chemotherapy, youll have an opportunity to consult with a doctor. This is a good time to ask questions and discuss your concerns.