To have chemo or not

I’m new to the forum. I was diagnosed with invasive ductal cancer. Had a lumpectomy 18th October and saw the oncologist last Friday. He said the good news was that the cancer hadn’t spread but the bad news was the cancer was a grade 3 and agressive. He said I definitely would have rad and hormone therapy.
He said if I have chemo it will give me an extra 7% chance but it was my decision. Just not sure what to do.

I can think of lots of reasons not to have it, which includes silly things like I have three holidays booked next year and I don’t want to loose my hair and I can’t afford to take 8 months off work. (The job I do he suggested that I could be open to infections). I’m 90% sure I’m going to turn chemo down but there is a little voice in the back of my mind saying am I sure.

Sorry this is so long winded. I’m sure lots of people have to make this decision just wanted to know how other people decided.

Hi Iris

I think you know deep down that absolutely no-one can make the decision for you - this has to be your decision. You have obviously thought of lots of reasons not to have chemo - but have you thought of reasons for having it?? Write down all the pros and cons. Do you have kids? If the cancer were to come back in the future with spread - could you live with the decision you made now if you decide not to go ahead with chemo.
I personally did not get a choice was toldl I would need chemo, surgery and rads - the only decision I had to make was in which order to have it. I too have invasive ductal grade 3 cancer. I am glad I did not have the choice but being 39 andhaving a 14 year old daughter i pretty much know I would have chosen to have chemo to throw everything they had at the damned tumour.

Dont know if this helps or not. Have you discussed it with your other half if you have one or with family?

Take care

gosh this must be hard for you. How big was the lump? Chemo would have given me only a 2% benefit so i turned it down. Mine was a grade 2, alhough the size was borderline for chemo. others on this site have had a similar dilemma, you have to go with how you feel. Chemo is hard bu the others on this site coped with it o.k.
I saw a report the others day which you might find interesting. Oncologists were asked if they would go through chemo and all of them said no. It could be argued that they might respond differently if they were seriously in the same position as us.
If you’re one of the 7% you would think it very worth it
Sorry, a very confused reply, i’m not really a help. On here others have gone for it, i’m not sure i would. if your tumour was larger than 1cm it might be worth doing.
Take time to make your decision the right one.
Love Julie XXX

Hi irisb

You have to do what is right for you really. I know that I will take anything and everything to help get rid of the b*******s, as I want to be around to see my two babies go to school and leave if possible and I didn’t have an option anyway.

Just to let you know, chemo is doable and not as bad as we fear. Yeah it is hard losing the hair, but I have got use to my wig now.

I wish you well with your decision and let us know how you get on.

Take care

Hi Irisb

I have had chemo on three separate occasions (as I have secondary breast cancer) and certainly if I hadn’t have taken the offer of chemo last September I wouldn’t be here now.

Also, there are so many chemos around - some knock you out and others you can still carry on with your normal life so I wouldn’t put too much store when some people say that all chemos make you feel really rotten, some do and some don’t.

Also, regarding losing your hair - it’s a horrible thing to happen and I’ve had to go through it twice but always, at the back of my mind, I knew that it was going to grow back again and I used to think about people who have alopecia and who know that their hair will never grow back again.

All in all though it’s got to be your decision and for some people it’s the right way to go and for others it isn’t and it’s always easy to look back in hindsight!


Hi Irsib

This is one of the hardest things about BC in that you have choices to make, it would be a lot easier if they just said this is what you have to have.

I was offered Chemo because of my young age (43, their words not mine). I was also homrone+. My tumour was low grade and 2 cm, but they said it would give me another 7%, so I decided to go for it, and it wasn’t something I decided on lightly, I knew I would be devasted to lose my lovely long hair.

I am glad I went for it, as since starting the hormone treatment, I have had bad side effects and decided not to carry on with this, so at least I had the benefit of the Chemo.

I finished my Chemo in February this year and now have a nice head of hair, just waiting for it to get a little longer, and am off on a fab holiday in December.

As long as you are at peace with whatever you decide, that is all you can do, make the best choice for your self.

Best wishes with your decision making.

love Deborah xxx

Hi Irisb,
I started a thread under the ‘undergoing treatment - targeted therapies - herceptin’ section, entitled ‘decision time - chemo or not’ and I found alot of the comments that people gave me helpful.
My cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes and therefore I thought I may get away without having chemo. But then it turned out to be HER2+ which means I will benefit from herceptin, and I can’t have herceptin without having chemo first. Therefore, I am going for the chemo starting next wednesday. Have a look at the thread as a lot of it may be relevant for you.

The extra 7% chance you mention - is that a chance of the cancer coming back, or is is chance of surviving ten? years. I assume you are referring to a 7% chance of the cancer not coming back.

I wonder how old you are? I am 41. I had my hair cut really short yesterday so that I will be a bit better prepared when it falls out. And do you know what? It looks great and I wish I had had it cut ages ago. I know it’s not bald yet but it just goes to show that hair isn’t everything.

I felt like 7% (of the cancer not coming back) was almost 10% and it seemed like a lot really. (strange logic maybe)

It is an awful decision to have to make. Like I said I was pushed into it because of the herceptin, but it would have been very difficult otherwise.
Please let us know how you get on.
Lorna X

Hi Irisb - it really is a very difficult, and personal, decision whether to go with chemo or not.
I had a grade and stage 2 invasive ductal tumour, 2 cm, associated DCIS, with 4/18 lymph nodes cancerous. I had a lumpectomy and a month later, total axillary node removal.

I almost did not have chemo as I had to stop my chemo (methotrexate) for Crohn’s disease, and was quite right as it turned out, very concerned about a Crohn’s flare. In the end I decided to have the chemo (6 x FEC), basically because of the spread to the lymph nodes, as the Oncologist told me they had no way of testing for microscopic cancer cells having already gotten through the lymph system. I was advised having chemo gave me a 4% better chance of non-recurrence. Rads brought it up to 7% I think.

It was no walk in the park as the Crohn’s flared and I was on hospital prescribed Frutijuice for the 4 months of chemo, no solid foods at all, along with a small dose of the steroid dexamethasone daily. I was still severely incontinent and lost 28 lbs. The only good thing was not losing my hair. I had the cold cap (the newer version that is connected permanently to a small freezer unit beside the chemo chair) and although my hair thinned a lot on top, I never had to wear my wig thankfully. My hair was affected in that it stopped growing when on chemo and when it started again it was very curly. Lovely - no hair drier or hot brush - just a wash and go situation. The chemo nurse said not all bc chemo regimes are suitable to have the cold cap, and even then only about 10% of people who have it, will not lose their hair. I knew I had to get lucky some time!

Looking back, although it was hard, I have no misgivings whatsoever that I made the right decision to have chemo. I am coming up to 5 yrs from dx in January and am doing well, with no recurrence.

Unfortunately, only you can make the decision, and I wish you well, whatever your decision. All we can do on this forum is give you the benefit of our individual experiences.

Hi Irisb, I too had a grade 3 agressive cancer and was given the choice of chemo, the enefit of it being a low percentage, but I grabbed the chance as I was hormone negative, no herceptin et. I understand chemo is very effective on grade 3 tumours. I was also told I had a 50/50 chance of a recurrence, so hair loss or not I went for it.

I got thro it all and am out the other side now, I dont regret my decision for a moment, cos I know i have done all I can .Ok hair loss was an awful thing, but it has grown back now, and I wasn’t to poorly on EC chemo.

Good luck with your decision and treatments, only you can make it


Thanks everyone for your input. It’s really good to be able to speak to someone that has gone through this.

I’m 50 and my lump was 2cms. I’ve got to see my surgeon tonight as I am in a lot of pain in the breast they took the lump from. I spoke to my breast care nurse yesterday and she informed the surgeon this morning and he has made an appointment for me tonight. I think it could be fluid building up there. I have one week to decide whether to have the chemo and I am off to Scotland for a few days with hubby. I expect BC will be something we will discuss at length.

The 7% extra was of the cancer not coming back in 10 years. So along with rads and tamoxifen that bumped me up to 85% chance of the cancer not coming back within 10 years .

Thanks Lorna I looked at your thread and found some really interesting replies.

Oh well I’ll put my thinking cap back on and have another think about it all. Wish the oncologist had just said yes you are going to have it or no you don’t need it instead of leaving me the decision. I’ve never been good at decision making ha ha

Iris xxxxx

Hi Irisb,

I too had a grade three tumour, although mine had spread to my lymph nodes. I was never given any choice - just told I would be having the lot. So I have done mast, chemo & now on rads & tamoxifen with herceptin to come.

Personally I would not turn anything down - what if you were in that 7%? All the hair and the holidays in the world are not worth losing your life for. Yes chemo was horrible, and there were plenty of times I really wanted it all to stop - but those days were in the minority, and mostly I was fine. I now make sure I eat lots of fruit & veg and take plenty of exercise, as these lifestyle choices also give us a few extra percentage points. I see all the little percentages as adding together, and whilst on their own they may be insignificant, taken together they add up to something worthwhile doing.

You don’t say how old you are. I am 45 and have three children - I feel I have to do everything possible to ensure I am here to see my grandchildren.

hi irish,
I too was in a simular situation to yours, i had a 2.3cm lump with clear margins and and no spread to lymphnodes my tumour was also grade 3 (aggressive) i was told chemo would give me only a 5% benifit but my oncoligist reccomended it because of the grade of the tumour. I decided to have the chemo because i felt at least i would have done everything i can and there wouldnt be any what ifs.It was a hard decision to make but in the end i thought if there was even only one microscopic cell left lurking somewhere the chemo would get it .Im in the middle of having chemo now with 3 left to go it hasnt always been easy but like everyone says it is doable .It realy is a personal choice and only one that you can make and whatever you decide will be the right decision for you.
Good luck and best wishes.
Lindiloo x

These are the possibilities:

  1. You don’t have chemo and your cancer never comes back

  2. You don’t have chemo and your cancer comes back:

a) very quickly
b) in the next 5 years
c) after 5 years

  1. You have chemo and cancer never comes back

  2. You have chemo and cancer comes back:

a) very quickly
b) in the next 5 years
c) after 5 years

In my case 4b happened (a regional recurrence) and I’ve had my third lot of chemo. I still don’t know if I made the 'right’decision but for me taking the treatment has involved less courage than to decline it. All the expectations from the medical profession and our friends and families is to ‘take the treatment offered’ but it is a very hard and personal decision. I think the curucial question is: If you decline chemo and it does come back will you have regrets?

best wishes


I agree with JaneRA, if you do not have the chemo and the sod does come back you will be so mad, if you have the chemo, and it comes back, you gave the SH-T your best shot. No one wants to loose there hair (god i hate bald) i had 8 chemo of FEC and lost my lovely blond hair, i looked at it this way, every time i lost another clump i thought the Chemo army are in there marching through my body sorting those little Bastar-s out, the body is a wonder of the world and repairs itself so many times from childhood, but hey, some times it needs help! i had a grade 3 my prognosis was good, i still decided to throw every thing at the tumour i possibly could. i was diagnosed in Aug 2005. and have never regreted my decision. and i am as beautiful as ever again (Joke) x

JaneRA has laid the situation out very clearly, as always.

If you have chemo and the cancer comes back, at least you’ll know you’ve done all you could.
If you don’t and the cancer comes back you might always wonder if you could have avoided it.

There are no definite results one way or the other with this disease. Hopefully you’ll be fine with or without the treatment; maybe you won’t no matter what you do. But don’t be too scared about the chemo; it passes quicker than you’d ever think and the hair does grow back!

Hope that helps. Stockbeck

Yep JaneRA! same happened to me - 4b.

I didnt get the choice both times and never knew this 7% stat (which I assume is based on the individual circumstances).

I was told that some people are just resistent to some chemos (like antibiotics really). No regrets from me - give me anything that blasts this bugger to kingdom come!

Hi Irisb,
I think we all have choices about our treatment after all it is our body that the doctors, oncologist and nurses are talking about and planning to treat.
I’m 38 and in April 07 diagnosed with a 60mm multi-focal grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma ER+ PR+ node positive 4 of 8, without treatment I was told I have a 10year survival rate of 20%, my oncologist told me I needed chemo, radio and hormone therepy and all these treatments would increase my to 40%. He also told me that I would have a long hard fight to get through the treatment. I decided not to have any treatment and my oncologist was not happy, its my body and not his that has to go through the treatment!
My six month mamogram came back clear and all my previous scans were clear. I have made my decision on my treatment and I feel the decision I have made is right for me.
What I am trying to say is that we have to make our own decisions about our cancer and our bodies, there are many different opinions and treatments out there that we can search for ourselves and make our own decision on whats right for us. We are always told to get 3 different opinions on many things in life why should this be different when it comes to our health?

Hi Everyone

Sorry it’s been so long answering but we went to Scotland for awhile just to have a think and a chill.

Saw the oncologist on Friday and told him I didn’t want the chemo. I just didn’t feel the extra 7% it would give me was worth going through it all for the next 7 months. When I told him he just said “right. Good” and then went on to explain about the radiotherapy and hormone treatment so I don’t think he was to bothered about me not wanting it.

Thank you for everyones comments though. It wasn’t a decision that I made lightly and everyones experiences and thoughts were taken on board.

So have decided to lose a bit of weight, about a stone, and eat a bit more healthier than I have been over the years and cut down on the old alcohol and keep my fingers crossed.

So I guess I’ll be joining the rad gang now.


Hi Iris

So glad you have come to a decision - and one that is right for you - you obviously have considered it a lot. Good luck with the rest of your treatment and my thoughts are and good wishes are with you.

Heres to a healthy and happy future for you

Love and hugs

Hi Iris

I was told my lump was 2cm, grade 2 and no sign of spread anywhere. I was told chemo was not necessary. I was 43 at dx. Some people in my position have had the works but recently there was something in the media saying that hormone receptive cancer is treated just as well with rads and tamoxifen. Different people have different ideas and different trusts treat you differently. So glad you have come to a decision and if your onc is happy, then it sounds as though you have made the right decision.

Lots of love