Chemo & Radio or just Radio Decisions

Hi All,

I’m post lumpectomy & lymph node surgery now of 3 weeks (both positive) and had my results off BC consultant , some good news as in clear margins but due to being grade 3 my tumour had increased from 14mm to 22mm within 4 weeks !!

I’m awaiting oncologist appt in next week or so but in MDT meeting my BC consultant advised they have suggested both chemo & radio, due to me not having full 12 months non periods (full menopause) even though I’d only had 3 last year of 1-3 days show but I’ve been in peri menopause now for 6 years.

My is head spinning at the moment trying to decide on right decision for confirming my next treatment plan

If I don’t have chemo does it higher my risk of reoccurrence ? 

Knowing how chemo knocks you about (due to going through it with my mom 2016-2017) and the thought of loosing my hair, to be quite truthful worries & scares me

Your experiences & opinions would be appreciated, thank you all in advance xx

Hi kitti

I’m so sorry you are in this position and I was with right to your last comments. It is indeed a tsunami of emotions but would you really base what could be a life-saving decision on the fear of losing your hair?? I speak as someone who is Stage 4 and, although all cases are unique, I would give an unequivocal yes to the question of recurrence. Believe me, it’s no walk in the park.

Hair is part of our identity but it shouldn’t define us, certainly not to this extent. There is the cold cap that can be used during chemo to prevent hair loss. There are remarkable wigs available. But there are also remarkable-looking women who embrace the bald look by pre-emptying the disaster and shaving their heads or having a buzz cut. My buzz cut survived all my primary treatment because it barely needs touching. My current chemo has just made my hair a bit thinner but it’s all there. You’ve already had to deal with losing a breast. At least hair grows again, quickly.

I’ve had a lifelong terror of vomiting, haven’t done it for 66 years! Even that didn’t stop me having chemo, once I’d been reassured. You probably will feel vile during chemo but not necessarily - it’s all manageable, hospitals are good at mitigating the side effects with supplementary medication like cyclizine to reduce or prevent nausea. But, clear margins or not, because your lymph nodes have been affected, I wouldn’t hesitate to say hang the hair, choose chemo.

I wish you well with whatever decision you make and hope it works well for you.

Jan x

PS. What nearly broke me was losing my eyelashes.

I can only tell you what we do here in the US. If you’re not past menopause it’s automatic chemo if lymph nodes are affected. And even if you are past menopause, it would probably be encouraged if the lymph node was affected a lot and with a grade three tumor. Personally I’d do chemo with no question and focus on how good it will feel to hear the word “done” and “cancer free” when finished. 

I wasn’t keen on having chemo but I guess no-one is. I have an aggressive cancer (grade 3 and triple negative) but it was early stage (18mm with no lymph nodes affected). It had however grown into my vascular system so there was a risk microscopic cancer cells could be anywhere in my body. It was that - combined with being reassured that as a fit and active person with no co-morbidities, I would likely tolerate chemo well - that tipped me over into accepting it. NHS Predict Breast can give a good idea of recurrence rates with or without chemo - but of course it’s population level data and it’s not going to tell you your individual risk. Ultimately whilst the benefit might be modest you have to be able to live with the decision you have taken. 

Hi there kitti…I had grade 2 12mm er+ IDC with one node positive…I was 55 and post menopausal…I was advised to have belt and braces chemo, and rads then follow up with zolendronic infusions for 3 years plus 10 year letrozole…my benefit for chemo was 3.6% …

Anything 3% or more then chemo is advised my onc said to me…but that said, those stats are based on on population data re my tumour…and not my personal risk ( which can never really be known unfortunately) …I needed to know I had done everything I could to reduce my risk of recurrence and secondary cancer…but thats me…and we are all different people…chemo wasn’t so bad for me …I have been left with a few health issues since …but I have no regrets…2 years on I am liking my new hair more than my original hair…its thicker with a wave I never previously had …losing my hair wasn’t great…but not as traumatic  as I thought it would be …but this was my experience and others will have different experiences… talk to your team…make sure you have all the facts and that you make your decisions whilst you are still within timescales for treatments…I wish you all the best with whatever you decide