Cancer treatment comes in many forms but typically starts with a primary treatment – such as surgery to remove a tumor. However, cancer treatment very often does not end here. Even after the removal of a tumor, the potential of cancer returning is still present. In many cases, especially if it is determined that there is a high risk of the cancer returning, an oncologist will recommend adjuvant cancer therapy which refers to follow-up cancer treatment administered following the primary treatment.
Adjuvant cancer therapy includes such procedures as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy, and radiation therapy, as well as a combination of multiple therapies.
Adjuvant cancer therapy can either be local or systemic:
Local adjuvant cancer therapy is a precise therapy that targets the cancer cells left behind in a tumor location following the removal of the tumor itself. This is typically done through radiation treatments during which radiation is delivered to the tumor cavity or localized areas surrounding where the tumor resided.
Local adjuvant cancer therapy typically begins three to six weeks following the primary surgery and is often recommended for breast cancer patients who had a tumor that was larger than 2”, had a tumor that extended into the muscles of the chest walls, had tumor growth that impacted multiple lymph nodes, underwent a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy, and has been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer.
Systemic adjuvant therapy is cancer treatment that is delivered to the entire body – such as with chemotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy, or a combination of any of these treatments. Systemic adjuvant therapy can be a beneficial follow-up cancer treatment to primary therapy as it can kill any cancer cells that – too small to be seen – may have gone unnoticed during surgery or that were not detected during initial testing.
Your physician will work with you to determine if adjuvant therapy – either local or systemic – is best for you.