Fluorouracil, Epirubicin, and Cyclophosphamide (FEC) chemotherapy is a combination treatment for breast cancer. The drugs attack cancer cells at different stages of the division process to increase the likelihood of knocking out a tumor. It may be given before surgery to shrink the tumor, which can make it easier to remove, and is also available afterward to kill cells left behind after tumor removal. This is one among a variety of options doctors may consider for patients, depending on the specifics of the case, medical history, and the doctor’s own experience.
In FEC chemotherapy, patients receive the three drug cocktail by infusion, usually on an outpatient basis. Sometimes the cyclophosphamide is given as a set of tablets to be taken over the course of two weeks after an infusion session. Patients may have to take several cycles of FEC chemotherapy. The success of the treatment can be assessed with regular screening to determine if the tumor is responding and to check on the patient’s side effects.
Like many chemotherapy regimens, these drugs can make patients feel ill. Their immune systems are less able to fight infection, which exposes them to an increased risk of severe illness. Nausea, vomiting, and dizziness can occur. Patients can also experience reactions during the infusion session, including sharp pain around the infusion site and hotness or tingling throughout the body. People who have problems during FEC chemotherapy should request attention from a nurse who can assess the situation and determine if the patient needs treatment.
Primary breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast may respond well to this treatment. It can also be considered for secondary cancers that have developed elsewhere in the body. Before FEC chemotherapy starts, the care provider may request imaging studies to look at the tumor, along with blood tests to get a baseline on the patient’s general level of health. Testing of the tumor can also help determine which medications the patient is likely to respond to.
Patients preparing for an infusion session can expect a blood test, used to make sure chemotherapy will be safe, along with placement of a catheter if they don’t have a port or intravenous line. Drugs can be delivered in FEC chemotherapy in any order. It may take several hours to complete the infusion and wait to allow nurses to monitor for bad reactions. Once the patient appears stable, it is usually possible to go home, and it may be advisable to plan on taking several days to rest and recover.