We thought it might be helpful to clarify some of your concerns about what you read in the Daily Mail. There are a number of factors which are thought to affect prognosis (outlook). These include the size of the breast cancer, the grade, whether the lymph nodes are affected and other features of the cancer such as whether the cancer is ER positive or HER2 positive. You can read more about this here. It’s possible to have a relatively high risk of recurrence despite having a small cancer although it’s true that in general terms, as mickey24 says, the smaller the size of the breast cancer the better the prognosis. However other factors such as the ones I mentioned above will also influence the outcome.
The newspaper article refers to a test called oncotype DX which can provide extra information that might alter the decision about whether to have chemotherapy. It can be used for women whose cancers are node negative, ER positive and HER2 negative and is thought to be most helpful for those women who are classed as being at an “intermediate” risk of recurrence. These people may find it difficult to decide about whether to have chemotherapy and results from the oncotype DX test can give them additional information. The test is currently not available on the NHS but it is being appraised by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and draft recommendations suggest it may be approved in a selected group of patients later in the year.
If you want to talk about your individual risk of recurrence the best people to speak to are your specialist or your breast care nurse. You are also very welcome to ring our Helpline on 0808 800 6000 or submit a question to Ask the Nurse.