Should I start chemotherapy before surgery?

The classical concept of breast-cancer treatment has been a sequence of tumor-removing surgery followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The goal of surgery and radiation therapy is to destroy or remove the primary cancer. Follow-up chemotherapy is designed to eliminate any cancer cells, as yet undetectable, at remote sites.

Recently, there have been new findings suggesting a potential benefit in some patients when chemotherapy is started before surgery. However, initial chemotherapy (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) should primarily be considered in patients with larger tumors and those with strong evidence of lymph-node involvement at the time of initial diagnosis.

If you are enrolled in a clinical trial, the advantages and disadvantages of all protocols should have been explained to you, giving you the opportunity to make an informed decision.

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