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Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

Chemotherapy (chemo) uses drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body. It may be used:

  • Before surgery—to shrink the tumor
  • After surgery—to kill cells that are left behind
  • To help ease symptoms caused by the tumor

Chemo may also be used with other therapies. This may include radiation treatment, biologic therapy, targeted therapy, or hormone blocking therapy.

Chemotherapy Drugs and Delivery

There are many kinds of chemo drugs. The drugs and how they are used will depend on the type of cancer. Breast cancer may be treated with:

  • Cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and 5-fluorouracil (CFM)
  • Cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and fluorouracil (CAF)
  • Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide (AC)
  • Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide followed by paclitaxel, docetaxel concurrent with AC, or docetaxel (TAC)
  • Doxorubicin, followed by CMF
  • Docetaxel and cyclophosphamide (TC)
  • Cyclophosphamide, epirubicin, and fluorouracil with or without docetaxel

Chemo is most often given through an IV. It is done in cycles over a set time.


  • Breast cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/breast-disorders/breast-cancer.
  • Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/breast-cancer-in-women.
  • Chemotherapy for breast cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment/chemotherapy-for-breast-cancer.html.
  • Chemotherapy for early and locally advanced breast cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/chemotherapy-for-early-and-locally-advanced-breast-cancer.
  • Chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/chemotherapy-for-metastatic-breast-cancer.
  • Fisusi FA, Akala EO. Drug combinations in breast cancer therapy. Pharm Nanotechnol. 2019;7(1):3-23.
  • Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-treatment-pdq#section/_185.


  • Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.