Confused over mother-in-laws results?

Hi Everyone,

Not sure if this is the right catagory to post this but here we go anyway!

Back in November 07 my mother in law was diagnosed with breast cancer, we had just got back from a two week holiday and was on our way to fly out to the middle east where we live. We were both very shocked, filled with disbelief! She was however undergoing a masectomy a few days after she told us so we stayed for an extra week and then had to fly back home.

I understand it was Pagents Disease plus also a lump behind too. She initially got her results after the masectomy a week later, and we were told that they got it all and that she didnt even need chemo, oh and that it hadnt spread to the lymphs. But recently we found out that she does need chemo, and just this week that if she does have the chemo then the chances of the cancer not returning will only be 17%?? I am totally confused?? She is contemplating not having the chemo…Is that percentage normal? I cant help thinking that maybe we are not being told everything.

With us not living in the UK it makes this situation very difficult, if the situation is far worse then I would obvisley make sure my husband and I fly back more often. I dont want him to not have been told the truth and then have lots of regrets and feelings of guilt? I am just not sure what to do, no-one seems to be communicating within the family.

Any advice?

Dear Rainbowbrite

I can’t really help, just wanted to sympathise with you and your mother in law over her diagnosis.

I suggest you call the helpline on this forum, and run through the questions with them. You need some answers and this site is probably more accessible to you being abroad, than trying to get through to people at the hospital.

All the best to you all

Cecelia. x

Hi RainbowBrite,

Firstly I am sorry to hear you and your mother are having to go through this shocking time.

Warning: My posting does appear a little gloomy so please do not read it if you are feeling fragile. Its not all gloomy though its just my experience and a confirmation that I have heard the percentages are as low as you state. You may wish to skip to the last paragraph as its my positive outlook.

I can’t comment on why your mother was told she needed chemo, perhaps in the joint team meeting most breast clinics have the oncologists disagreed with the breast surgeons. This can happen, although not the same circumstances I was told that my case had been discussed and there were differing views whether I should have a second regime of chemo. This is where I think I can demonstrate the statistics.

I first had surgery and chemo then radiotherapy from January06. The cancer returned in my lymph node a year to the day of my original diagnosis. I was given surgery to clear the nodes. I was not offered further chemo because the team decided as I had had chemo and radiotherapy and the cancer may not return. Unfortunately it did within four months so further surgery- a mastectomy was the course of action.
The breast surgeons said I didn’t need chemo because although no guarantees the cancer had stayed regional ( No detectable spread- secondary Cancer). However I was referred to the oncologist to discuss the possibility of Herceptin. The oncologist urged me to have chemo because of the amount of recurrences in a short time.

I have never asked about statistics, they are just numbers but I do know from reading the threads from very well informed ladies that the statistics for prevention of a return are very low. In the end we all have to make our own choices don’t we. I know my mother in law refused chemo opting for quality of life (She was pretty sick at the time of late diagnosis). My dad on the other hand pleaded for more chemo but was refused because he was at the stage of no return.

Me, I decided to go for chemo because I have a good quality of life, the first chemo regime was not too bad, obviously it didn’t work. This one has been worse but I know there is an end to it. I remain positive and focused on the future I have, however long, I will not live dying is my mantra.

All the very best for a successful outcome and a bright new year once the decisions have been made.


Hi cb102

I am so sorry to hear bout your diagnosis, sounds like you have been through a lot. Thank you for sharing your view and experiences with me.

I didn’t find your post too gloomy, Just very realisitc. I know there is no guarantee’s that after chemo the cancer won’t come back, I was quite shocked at what the statistics actually are, and my mother-in-law feels very dis-heartened at the percentages. With this in mind I can now understand why so many woman opt out of chemo. I’m glad to hear you are nearly at the end of your chemo, how many sessions did you have?

Its just so hard to be out here and only managing to get pieces of information from back home, and which those pieces of information are only coming to me. I am 26 and am left to tell my husband about the realism of his mothers situation. I feel so hurt for him that no one is communicating with him. I just dread that we are being given the ‘not so bad storey’ to not cause us any worry. We only visit the UK once a year, I dont want my husband to miss on precious time with his mother if the situation is far worse. Living with regrets and gulit is not what I want for him.

In regrards to treatment I will keep you posted, I am not sure what she has decided yet, should find out any day. Whatever she chooses though I know all the siblings will support her 110% as will I.

Thanks once agian for letting me in on your experiences, this site is so good for people who have been afftected by family members having breast cancer.


The statistics vary according to the size, grade, stage, HER 2 status, hormone status etc. But the stats I was given were very different to 17%. In fact quite the reverse, with all the treatment being offered, I was told 85% chance of non recurrence during 10 years and mine was grade 3 (aggressive) and HER2 positive (also aggressive), ER positive, no lymph nodes. It is really difficult to know what to do sometimes because there are no guarantees for any of us, however good or bad the prognosis, but I decided to take everything that was offered.

I would suggest that your mother in law talks to her oncologist or breast care nurse again before taking any decisions, so that she is really clear about the options and what difference the treatment might make. And also to check that 17% figure. I always go armed with a list of questions and my husband takes notes as it is difficult to remember everything, particularly at the beginning when you are not so familar with the terminology being used and when the diagnosis itself shocks you so much that you don’t take much else in at the time.

She could also talk to the helpline provided by this site. I have done this a couple of times and found it very useful.

You are the same age as my younger daughter. My two daughters and my husband have been wonderfully supportive to me during all of this and it sounds as if you will be a great support to your mother in law as well.

Good luck to you all.