Chemotherapy

“Chemo” uses powerful drugs to fight cancerous tumors in the body.

Chemotherapy refers to a large class of drugs that are used in cancer treatment. Each medication works differently. Some are designed to attack specific types of cells while others are systemic, meaning they do not differentiate between healthy cells and cancerous cells.

Chemo drugs are usually given orally (as a pill) or intravenously (via IV). Oral medication can usually be taken at home. If you’re receiving IV chemotherapy, you’ll go to one of our partner facilities in the Northwell Health system for treatment.

Patients may receive chemo without undergoing breast surgery (mastectomy or lumpectomy), or they may receive chemotherapy in combination with surgical procedures.

Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Chemo is known for its challenging side effects. The drugs can cause extreme fatigue and nausea. Hair loss is also common with chemotherapy, although a technique known as cold-capping may reduce hair loss.

If you’re receiving chemotherapy, you’ll want to take precautions against infection. The drugs weaken your immune system in order to attack the cancer cells, so you may be more susceptible to disease. Eating well, being as active as possible, and reducing stress can boost your immune system and protect your body.

You should know that every woman’s body responds differently to chemotherapy. What kind of side effects you experience, and how intense they are, is not related to the effectiveness of the treatment. There are also medications and protocols that can help suppress or reduce side effects. In addition, you can prepare for chemotherapy with many of the same practices you might use to prepare for surgery.

Timing of Chemotherapy and Breast Reconstruction

If your oncologist prescribes chemotherapy, it may affect the timing of your breast reconstruction. Traditionally, breast reconstructions were not performed until chemo was complete.

However, modern approaches allow for more flexibility. You may have breast reconstruction between courses of chemo, before you begin treatment, or after chemotherapy is complete. Your plastic surgeon at the Friedman Center will work closely with you, your breast surgeon, and the rest of your team to design a treatment plan that meets your needs.

Your cancer treatment plan may include other complementary therapies, such as radiation, targeted therapy, or hormone therapy. Many women take a hormone therapy drug called Tamoxifen after their chemotherapy is complete. If a mastectomy or lumpectomy is part of your treatment plan, then you may want breast reconstruction surgery to rebuild your breast(s).

Getting the support you need is vital to your treatment plan. Please reach out to us if you have questions or need resources. We’re here to help.

Revitalize After Cancer Treatment

Chemo, along with radiation and surgery (including anesthesia for surgery) all take a toll on your body. As you recover from treatment, you may want to revitalize your outward appearance and present a fresh face to the world. The Friedman Center offers onsite cosmetic procedures, such as Botox and dermal fillers, to rejuvenate your skin and help you feel like yourself again. Learn more about cosmetic treatments.