How do doctors make treatment decisions?
If you have been given a breast cancer diagnosis, your doctor will need to understand certain factors about your cancer including the stage and subtype of your tumour. This will help to determine which treatment may be most beneficial.
What are the first things your doctor needs to know?
There are several medical factors your doctor will consider before deciding which treatment options would be suitable for you. Some of the key information they need to know can be found by answering the questions below.
Size and location
- a. Has the cancer spread to the lymph nodes?
- b. Has the cancer spread to the bones?
- c. Has the cancer spread to visceral organs, such as the lungs or the liver?
Whilst secondary breast cancer cannot yet be cured, it can be treated and people can go on to live for many years beyond their diagnosis. Management is aimed at maintaining quality and length of life.
Treatment depends on hormone and HER2 status of the cancer and previous treatments will also be taken into account. Treatment for this stage of breast cancer can include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and/or radiotherapy.
- a. When were you diagnosed?
- b. What subtype were you diagnosed with?
- c. What treatment did you receive for primary breast cancer?
- d. Are you still receiving treatment? If not, how long has it been since your treatment ended?
Questions about subtype are particularly important. Your doctor needs to determine the subtype of breast cancer by confirming two key factors:
- the hormone-receptor status
- the HER2 status
Once your doctor knows the subtype and has all the information set out above, the treatment options suitable for you can be discussed.