Just feeling a little confused, surgeon said I may not need chemotherapy but get the feeling the breast cancer nurse is preparing me for it, also the information books state if i have read it correctly that chemotherapy is recommended for younger women, i’m 40 so not sure if i fall into that category or not. Also been told that if it is also HER2 positive that I will definitely have chemotherapy, does anyone know if the HER2 test is taken at biopsy stage or surgery stage. If at biopsy stage, they may already have the results, but I don’t want to be a nuisance and ring up if the results will come after surgery.

It’s not that I mind, it’s just I wish I knew, still another 2 weeks until surgery the waiting is horrible because I just want to get the ball rolling and know what i’m dealing with.

Sorry to moan, just letting off steam, thanks for being there.


Hi AnnieMarie,

I was diagnosed last March, age 34. At the time my surgeon advised me that because of my age I would be given chemo, regardless of whether or not there were any lymph nodes involved. As it happens I had high node involvement!

The ‘sample’ for HER2 testing was taken when I had my mastectomy and total axillary clearance a week after diagnosis. It took around 3 months for the results to come back, which were positive. I started chemo in May and finished in Oct. I started Herceptin on Jan 3rd.

I’m not sure if its the norm for HER2 testing to be done when the initial biopsies are taken or if, like me, its done during surgery. I guess this is a postcode lottery and may even be down to individual Dr’s protocols. Also, it took 3 months for my HER2 results to come back, many others have had their’s sooner but people have also had them later than 3 months. It may be worth you discussing this with your bc nurse to find out the protocol for the hosp where you are being treated.

I wish you well for your forthcoming op,

Take care,


Hi AnneMarie,
The first thing to say to you is that you are not alone, and I know that you will get many replies from other forum users soon.
At Breast Cancer Care many women contact us when they are waiting for test results or treatment to start, and tell us that the wait is the most awful time.
Your medical team will be better informed after your surgery, to discuss with you what treatment options are best for you.

Following surgery the cancer that has been removed will be looked at in the lab, under a microscope, other tests such as testing for HER2 status can be carried out, also to see if it is hormone responsive and take into account the size of the tumour, its grade (how much it looked like normal breast cells), also if any of the lymph nodes under your arm (axilla) were affected by cancer cells.

All of this information will help guide the team looking after you towards which treatments will be most effective for you.

Please don’t feel like you are being a nuisance, do give your breast care nurse a ring, she will be happy to talk through your concerns with you. Or you are welcome to call our freephone helpline on 0808 800 6000, and speak with one of the team there.

Very best wishes for your surgery
Clinical nurse specialist

Thank you, just spoke to hospital and they said they should have the results for the HER2 on Wed when I go for the pre-op. There’s a lot of ifs and buts at the moment, I guess until the results come through from surgery I will have to be patient. I guess this is why they say at the end of the day you come out a much stronger person.

Hi Ann Marie

I am 39 was dx on 24th Dec with grade 2 1.8cm invasive ductal. Had WLE and SNB. The lump was 100%er+ and 80%pr+ HER2 negative no nodes or vascular involment and margins are clear.
I too was told from day one to expect chemo as people our age get the most mileage out of it but when the oncologist showed me the computer programme they use the best treatment programme for me has come up as 19 sessions of radiotherapy, 2 years of zoladex injections and 5 years on tamoxifen. He showed me the benefits and the difference in percentages and the difference was less that 1% if I had chemo instead of zoladex. He said the only benefit of chemo in my case was to shut the overies down which the zoladex does.

I too was ready for chemo had even researched headwear and organised getting my hair cut short. Please dont take this as giving advice on what to decide its just that when I got my treatment programme I couldnt find anyone with same or similar outcome to compare notes with. Since then I am in touch with a few ladies one of which has been given the same treatment programme just today.

Hope this is of some use to you but your oncologist will offer you the best for your BC. I know its difficult waiting but try not to look into stats too much.
Shonagh xx

Shonagh, your post has been very helpful, thank you very much. I know i’m trying to jump the gun, so to speak and have also researched headwear and spoken to hairdresser etc., just to prepare myself. In one some silly way, it’s almost as if by finding out if i’m having chemotherapy I can get my long hair cut, get used to it, sort out hats etc., In a strange way, it’s just something to get the ball rolling, kind of ‘bring it on’ and take control. At the moment the next couple of weeks are just stagnant. A good lesson in patience though.


Hi AnnieMarie,

I was 44 at dx in Feb 07. I had surgery first, and a BC nurse on the ward told me to expext chemo, whatever the results of my surgery, due to my age. As it turned out I had a grade three tumour with 3/16 lymph nodes affected, so I think I would have got chemo whatever my age.

If you are HER2 positive, you will need to have chemo as herceptin cannot be given without chemo. But only about 20% - 25% of breast cancers are HER2 positive.

Please try not to worry too much. I am sure you will get whatever treatment is best for you. Just take it one day at a time. If you need chemo, you have a long treatment journey ahead of you, but whatever the outcome, you will get through it all.

Best wishes

I too was told by my surgeon that i wouldnt have chemo, but here i am 8 months later with no hair and waiting for my last month of chemo to begin.

I have talked to other “younger ladies” in my area and we were all told the same thing to begin with, i think they dont want to overwhelm you in the beginning. i think you should just go with the flow i know its easier said than done, but worrying really does make it harder.


Thank you Anna, just made the decision to have mastectomy instead of lumpectomy and am actually feeling more positive now that decision has been made.

Thank you for your message.