If your doctor suggests chemotherapy in addition to surgery, the reason is to increase your chances of a cure. Chemotherapy drugs may be given by mouth or by infusion into a vein or injection into a muscle. Then they enter your bloodstream and travel throughout your body, killing cancer cells that may have spread from the original site, thus making your cancer less likely to return somewhere else.
The reason chemotherapy works is that it kills fast-growing cells, which include cancer cells but also other cells, such as hair follicles. This is one reason for many of the typical side effects of chemotherapy treatment, such as hair loss.
Chemotherapy for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) patients who need infusions takes place in the Infusion Suite on the fifth floor of the SCCA clinic.
Chemotherapy given before surgery, or neoadjuvant chemotherapy, is the standard treatment for women whose tumors are too large to remove with surgery alone and still get a cosmetically acceptable outcome. It is also the standard treatment for women with inflammatory breast cancer.