Q. My mom is about to undergo chemotherapy for breast cancer and there are so many chemotherapies to choose from. Can you tell me if a test is available to determine the best treatment prior to her starting treatment? What else might you recommend for her to do once she begins her treatment?

A.

We have received several questions about treatment options, follow up and ongoing care. CancerCare is not a medical facility; rather, we are professional oncology social workers, so I will try and address your concerns generally. For any woman trying to make a decision as to what chemotherapy to be treated with, there are clinical practice guidelines established by the National Comprehensive Cancer Center (NCCN) to help physicians select the proper treatment in each individual’s case. There are also two tests available to women that can help them decide about treatment, and both tests provide information about the possible rate of recurrence of their breast cancer. The tests work with a specific type of breast cancer, estrogen receptor positive, and one such test, Oncotype DX, has been approved for payment by Medicare. Information regarding the other test is available at www.molecularprofiling.com but not does provide information whether they are approved for insurance payment. Before deciding on any treatment, make sure that your oncologist has a complete history of any additional medical problems and of any other incidences of cancer in the family. Lastly, if you have any uncertainties, seek out a second opinion.

After a diagnosis many women look for additional ways to prevent a recurrence and often explore complementary therapies as a way to help healing and promote their health. Activities such as yoga or mediation can provide a sense of peace and promote sleep and relaxation. There is little indication, however, that “natural” remedies such as vitamins or herbs have any effect on breast cancer. If you do decide to use herbal supplements, please be sure to let your doctor know since some can be harmful when combined with chemotherapy.

Learn more about CancerCare’s breast cancer services and resources.