Adjuvant Treatments

The word ‘adjuvant’ means to apply after initial treatment, especially to suppress secondary tumour formation. In essence, it is treatment given to prevent your chances of recurrence of the tumour (either in the original location or elsewhere in the body).

Sometimes more than one adjuvant treatment is needed and these will be discussed with your medical oncologist. Adjuvant therapies are usually given over a defined time frame.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy often forms part of breast cancer treatment.

Also called radiation therapy, it uses X rays to destroy cancer cells and will usually be recommended after breast conserving surgery (lumpectomy) for cancer.

If radiotherapy has been recommended for you, you will be referred to see a Radiation Oncologist who will discuss your treatment plan.

Chemotherapy

Adjuvant chemotherapy is usually given via an infusion in day oncology. Sometimes chemotherapy tablets can also be used, depending on the cancer type.

Endocrine Therapy

Adjuvant endocrine, or hormonal therapy is given to reduce the hormones in the body that are thought to drive cancer growth. It is usually in the form of tablets and/or injections and is also given for a specified time frame.

Targeted Therapies

Targeted therapies are used if there is a known mutation or protein that is thought to drive your cancer’s growth and the drug used targets that mutation or protein – to reduce its effects on cancer growth. These can either be via an infusion or tablets.

Neoadjuvant Treatments

Neoadjuvant therapy is usually given as a first step to shrink a tumor before the main treatment, which is usually surgery. The ways in which this can be given is similar to adjuvant therapies (above).

Your cancer specialist will discuss with you the best neoadjuvant options and whether it is needed prior to surgery. Like adjuvant therapies, these are also given over a specified time frame, prior to potential surgery. While having neoadjuvant therapy, your cancer remains inside the body and thus will be continually monitored to ensure the effectiveness of the neoadjuvant therapy.