Planning treatment

Before any treatment begins, make sure that you have discussed the choices with your doctor. Your doctor may advise that one method of treatment is better than another. The treatment choices you are offered will be based on all the information the doctor has about your cancer and what is right for you. These include:

  • the size of the cancer

  • the grade of the tumour (how the cancer looks under the microscope. Aggressive cancers have a special appearance that tells doctors they are more likely to spread)

  • the number of lymph nodes under your arm that contain cancer cells

  • whether the cancer was growing into the blood or lymphatic vessels. (This is described as lymphatic vascular invasion (LVI).)

  • whether the cancer cells have hormone receptors (oestrogen/progesterone) on them

  • whether there were cancer cells present at the edges of the tissue removed (also called positive margins)

  • HER2 receptor test results (see the page "Diagnosis").

  • your general health.

Breast cancer is treated by several different methods: surgery, radiation treatment, chemotherapy, hormone treatment, and monoclonal antibody therapy.

You may find it useful to have your husband, partner, or a friend with you when you talk to the doctor. You may also find it helpful to make a list of questions before your visit (refer to the page "Questions you may wish to ask" and take notes during your discussion). The Cancer Society also has a booklet titled Questions You May Wish To Ask that you can receive from your local Cancer Society, by viewing it on our website, or by phoning the cancer information nurses on the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).

Make sure you understand the reasons for your doctor’s advice. Ask for a second opinion if you want one.