What is adjuvant therapy?

Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery

Adjuvant therapy is a term used in cancer treatment to describe the use of either chemotherapy or radiotherapy or both as an adjunct to follow surgery for intended cure.

Adjuvant therapy is additional cancer treatment given after the primary treatment to lower the risk that the cancer will come back. Adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or biological therapy.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

John S. Maul, MD
Hematology & Oncology

Adjuvant therapy is treatment given after primary treatment for cancer. It is used when there is no evidence of residual cancer, but the risk of cancer returning is sufficiently high to warrant further therapy. The goal of further treatment is to reduce the risk of recurrence and increase the chance of cure. For example, a person with breast or colon cancer may undergo initial surgery to remove the tumor. All tests may suggest that there is no residual disease. However, the cancer may have concerning features that suggest it may still be present in the body but too small to detect. Adjuvant therapy, often consisting of chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, radiation or combinations of these, can be used to eradicate microscopically residual disease in order to increase the chances of cure.

It is important to get an opinion from a medical oncologist after initial treatment for a cancer to ensure that no further therapy is needed and that a person is monitored appropriately for recurrence.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.