Whether to go ahead with chemotherapy

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I was diagnosed with TNBC in January and had a lumpectomy mid March. I was advised to have chemotherapy even though there were good margins and no lymph node involvement. Four week after operation I was just about to stsrt chemo and got an infection in my breast and the wound split open and chemotherapy had to be postponed. It is now 9 weeks on and my wound has only healed by 70% so it will be another 4 weeks before chemotherapy can even be considered. I am so fed up with it all and where I was very pro chemotherapy I am now wondering whether to bother.

I am 72  I have other health problems, live on my own and don’t have any children so any decision I make won’t affect anyone else.

My question is did any of you turn down chemotherapy and now regret it?

  • Sorry I cannot help you.  I am 70 and have stage 1 cancer.  The advice was to have chemo as it would clear up any cancer that has escaped into the rest of my body.  It would give me a better all clear. I have had a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction and covered well from the operation.  I started my chemo yesterday and so far ok but early days. Macmillan have a free counselling service that offer 6 weeks of counselling.  Would it be worth contacting them as a sounding board.  Obviously they cannot tell you want to do but can help talk the issues.  It has certainly helped me.  All the best and lots of virtual hugs 

  • Hi I have Grade 3 TNBC and had diagnosis and surgery on around the same schedule as you. With an 18mm tumour, clear margins and no lymph node involvement, I started out very uncertain about chemo. The population level data on NHS Predict Breast didn’t paint a story of either a huge recurrence risk for me, or that chemo would make a major difference to the reduction in risk.

    Ultimately a number of things persuaded me to have chemo. The major one was that my tumour had vascular invasion, meaning microscopic cancer cells could have already landed in distant sites via by blood stream prior to surgery. The second one is I am slightly younger (65) but in good health and fairly fit. I therefore felt I had a good chance of riding through chemo without too much trouble - and thankfully that’s been the case so far - and more importantly that I would bounce back ok at the end. I also researched around it a lot with the help of my niece who is a paediatrician, and her advice (backed by the medical access she had) pushed me towards it. My biggest fear remains one of being maimed with peripheral neuropathy and not being able to get back to running, which I love, or not being able to prepare food.  I have a supportive husband and I don’t think it would have been so easy to get through it if I had been on my own.

    I understand chemo is generally recommended for an aggressive cancer like TNBC if the 5 year survival benefit is likely to be 5% or more - which means the remaining people don’t benefit, either because they didn’t need it anyway, or they die of something else anyway, or because they had a recurrence leading to death despite having the chemo. No one can tell you where you sit on that spectrum. It’s a decision only you can take, the important thing is not to have regrets either way. 

    All the best. My treatment is 4 cycles of EC (I am in round 3 at the moment) followed by 12 weeks of Paclitaxel. I will then have 5 days of radiotherapy and am having 6-monthly Zometa infusions for 3 years. 

  • Hi Both

    Thanks Coddfish for another helpful response.  My son and his best friend both surgeons said go for Chemo with the TNBC histology.  I have just had my first treatment and the road ahead seems long and challenging. I know I have made the right decision but it still feels daunting.  I realise more and more I need the right support around me. Member 322 where can you get that support?  

    I am not as eloquent as Coddfish but she is right you do not want to regret any decision you make 

    Lots of virtual hugs