Trying to support my mum but I'm confused with what's going on!

Hoping someone can clarify a few things for me.
My mum was told she has BC a few weeks ago. I have been a nervous wreck ever since but my mum doesnt seem to be fazed by it. She had MRI, CT scan and biopsy last week and bone scan later this week. We went to see her consultant earlier today for the result and shes said mum’s has Grade 3 cancer, tumour measuring at 3.5cm, although they didn’t say what kind. To be honest I thought the consultant was a bit all over the place with the infornation. When I asked what’s my mum prognosis she really didn’t say much and said something about speaking to the Oncologist! I thought she was the Oncologist. She also said mum should have chemo first to shrink the tumour before surgery because having surgery now will not give a clear enough margin. What does that mean? My mum is getting really anxious as she just want to lump removed ASAP.
My knowledge of BC is limited and I have just started to read up on it. Is my mum tumour considered big and how serious is it bring graded at 3? luckily the CT scan back clear and they don’t think there’s any spread. Her nymph nodes are clear too although they want to do some other biopsy under arm. Don’t really understand what it is. All I could grasp was something to do ith her central nodes. Anyway know what they are or have has the same test?

Hi Kat,

I’m sorry you find yourself in this position, and what a supportive daughter you are. Your mum is lucky to have you. You don’t say how old she is, but if she needs any advice or support, this forum is the best place in the world to be, so maybe she could join in herself?

If you are reading up about matters, please avoid too much Googling. It throws up some dreadful sites that are well out of date and just plain wrong. Stick to this site, Cancer reaerch, or the Macmillan site. You could start with this

If you follow the links you will find out all you need to know.

She does have a bigger than hoped fo tumour, but many ladies have larger ones. This is the reason they want to do chemo first. Chemo is likely to shrink the tumour to a size where they can do a lumpectomy (known as a wide local excision or WLE) to remove it and get clear margins round the tumour. The margins are the areas of breast tissue round the tumour. They want to see margins of breast tissue that are clear of any cancer cells. This would mean the cancer is totally removed and in a jar in the pathology lab rather than in her breast. The larger the tumour, the less room there is in the breast to remove everything.

When you say “central nodes” I assume you mean sentinel nodes. These are the lymph nodes under the armpit where any nasties in the breast usually drain to first before entering the system. If these are found to be clear of any cancer cells there is a likliehood the cancer hasn’t spread anywhere else. However, you really need more information as to whether there is any vascular invasion before you can be more sure.

Grade 3 is the most aggressive of the three possible grades. Did your mum have a biopsy of the breast? If so, they should know if her tumour is responsive to the hormones oestrogen and progesteron, or even to the HER2 protein. These possibilities will determine her future treatment. Perhaps you could find out by asking her breast care nurse for more information, and obtaining a copy of the path lab report, which will have all the information detailed. If the nurse is difficult about this, you can ask your GP for a copy.

I wish your mum the very best of luck. xxx

Hi Kat I had a 48mm tumour and had chemo first to shrink. Thought I would not cope with knowing the tumour was still there but I did and it was ok. On a very big plus side when I did have surgery the tumour was no longer present i had a complete response to chemo so I know that the type of chemo I had worked for me. The other way round I would not have known this so it is a great comfort now.
I hope all goes well for your Mum and once treatment starts she will feel a lt more at ease
Wendy x x

Thank you for your replies, Lola65 and Wendy. Really appreciate it.
Lola65 mum’s English is not very good otherwise I would’ve asked her to join the forum because I think she could with the support. I’m trying my best but I’m so scared myself. Every time I talk to her I just want to cry.
The doctor said my mums BC will not respond to hormones but mention something about putting her on Herceptin when she starts Chemo. I don’t even know what that means.
On average how long is the wait before chemo starts? Mum just want to start her treatment now as she is constantly worried about it spreading especially now that she now know its grade 3!
Kat xx

Hi Kat,
I can’t comment too much on the physical side of things but would just like to say what a lovely, caring daughter you are. Your mum’s journey will be so much easier having you in her life! I hope you get the support that you will need too as if I’ve taken anything at all away from this experience, it is that it truly does impact upon everybody in the family.

Good luck to you all.


Hi Kat
once the treatment starts your mum will at least know that she is starting to beat his nasty disease . I too had chemo first which shrank my tumour to nothing and the lumpectomy has hardly left a scar. I had radiotherapy and also Herceptin for a year.
I found it really useful for someone to be with me and take notes as I always forgot what I’d been told.
Ask the consultant to write things down too.
it is a reall scary time for your mum but know that the treatment doesn’t last forever, our hair does grow back and we do get back to a different sort of normality.
lots of lovely ladies have been through this so keep in touch and ask as many questions as you want.
Love and hugs. Linda x

Thanks Linda just reading your post and feeling so down for me and my mum, I’m the one with ca but my mum feeling it too. Nice to know we get back to a different sort of normality, can’t imagine it but can’t wait x only dx 17 th may , one surgery down all rest waiting xx poor family go through hell x

Herceptin is a wonder drug normally given as an IV infusion into a vein once every 3 weeks for a year. It is given to people whose tumour is known as HER2 positive, meaning the tumour feeds off the HER2 protein. This is a human growth potein that we all have in our bodies. It’s what makes us grow. HER2 positive tumours have more HER2 than normal. Herceptin is designed to combat this and is only given to people with this type of tumour. Your mum is lucky to be given this drug. I am also on Herceptin. I have had 5 infusions up to now. 13 more to go!

She should be hearing about her chemo very soon. She will get an appointment with an oncologist who will give her a treatment plan designed specifically for her circumstances, and then she will be up and running. You need to go with her, and take a list of questions with you. Make sure you get all the answers before you leave the room, and get him to write them down if you think you will forget, or don’t understand.

Take care xxx