Chemotherapy is a way of treating breast cancer, even if it has (or potentially has) spread to other parts of the body. The other common way of doing this is hormone therapy.

Chemotherapy is also occasionally given prior to surgery to try and shrink larger breast cancers such that they become more easy to operate on and remove. This can sometimes make preserving the breast an option rather than mastectomy.

Chemotherapy is as a course of treatment usually given every 3 or 4 weeks over 3 to 6 months. Different regimens of treatment are used depending on the extent and type of breast cancer and your general fitness. Chemotherapy is usually given as an outpatient but does take most of the day. You are usually attached to a drip for a while so that the chemotherapy can go directly into the bloodstream.

There are a few common side effects with chemotherapy:

  • A metallic taste in your mouth
  • Temporary hair loss
  • Tiredness
  • Induction of the menopause
  • Sore mouth
  • Nausea

There are many ways nowadays to try and minimise the impact of these side effects. If you require chemotherapy you will be referred to an expert who will advise you. Your breast care nurse will also spend time going over the details of how best to cope with chemotherapy. Another good website for further information is where you will find useful fact sheets