By conventional treatment we mean treatment recommended and carried out by doctors and hospitals as part of the standard cancer journey. It may also be called ‘regular’, ‘Western’ or ‘mainstream’ treatment. On some websites and literature it is called ‘traditional’ treatment: this is confusing because for indigenous people traditional healing includes natural medicines, rituals, diet, relationship to the land and spirituality developed over thousands of years. We have a separate page on Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Treatment.
IF YOU WANT TO USE TRADITIONAL OR COMPLEMENTARY TREATMENTS IN YOUR CANCER JOURNEY IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU TALK TO YOU CONVENTIONAL MEDICAL ADVISORS FIRST BECAUSE SOMETIMES CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE MAY HAVE A BAD REACTION WITH OTHER TREATMENTS.
Everyone’s breast cancer is unique and the treatment in each case will depend on many things including:
- The type of cancer,
- The stage of the cancer,
- Exactly where the cancer is in your body,
- Your age, general health and lifestyle,
- Your own wishes.
When your breast cancer is confirmed you will meet with medical specialists, probably a surgeon and oncologist to work out a treatment plan.
Unless you have a very simple, non-invasive cancer at stage 0, you will probably need to have more than one type of treatment, for example surgery followed by chemotherapy.
As in other pages on this website, we give basic facts here about the various kinds of treatment, and link you to other websites for more detailed information.
➢ Breast Cancer Society of Canada has a single page on treatment generally
➢ Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation has a short introduction to treatment on one page and individual pages with more detailed information about each kind of treatment.
➢ Willow also has a good introduction to breast cancer treatments and then links to more detail.
➢ BREASTCANCER.ORG has a great deal of information on different treatments, including side effects, set out in a way that is easy to understand and helpful. BUT because it is American it also has information that is not relevant to Canadians, especially about things like paying for treatment and where it takes place. Also drugs may be called something different in the USA.
Most treatments have side effects, which means the treatment itself (and not the cancer) can cause unusual or unpleasant effects. We have a separate page on side effects.
The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation website has information about surgery here. This includes information on what will happen when you go for your operation and how to prepare for surgery.
BREASTCANCER.ORG also has lots of useful information about surgery here. But once again, be careful because it is American, so not everything it says applies to Canada.
Willow has a very helpful page on breast reconstruction. If you think you may want this, you need to discuss it with your medical team as soon as early as possible.
Radiation treatment does have some side effects which build up over the period of the treatment. Click here for our page on side effects.
Although normally women live at home and visit the hospital daily for their radiation treatment, this is not possible for women from NWT who may have to stay in Edmonton for weeks in order to have radiation treatment. (See our page on Medical Travel for more information on staying in Edmonton.)
Chemotherapy drugs are carefully calculated for each patient, taking into account the patient’s health, and the type and stage of cancer.
Chemotherapy affects the whole body, not just the cancer cells and side effects can be severe. For many women the most dramatic, and difficult, side effect of chemotherapy is losing their hair. Click here for our page on side effects.
You will have to travel to Yellowknife or Edmonton for chemotherapy given intravenously.
CHEMOREADY.CA is a Canadian website all about chemotherapy.
Other Drug Therapies for Breast Cancer
Increasingly drugs are being developed that attack specific cancer cells or stop cancer cells from growing. There are two main types of treatment and it depends on the type of breast cancer whether they might be recommended for you.
Hormone and other drug therapies do not have such a dramatic effect on the body as chemotherapy, but they can have quite serious side effects.