Whether you are offered chemotherapy depends on your breast cancer

Not all women need chemotherapy. Whether or not you are recommended chemotherapy will depend on a number of factors, including the characteristics of your breast cancer such as its grade and stage, and whether it has spread to your lymph nodes. You may be offered a gene test known as Oncotype DX which can help predict whether you are likely to benefit from chemotherapy. Your judgement of whether the potential benefits outweigh the side effects of treatment is also important.

If the risk of your cancer coming back is low you will not normally be offered chemotherapy, as there is a good chance that your cancer will not return anyway. The benefits of taking chemotherapy are likely to be outweighed by the side effects or risks in this situation.

If your breast cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, or you have HER2 positive breast cancer or triple negative breast cancer you are more likely to benefit from chemotherapy.

Your oncologist – a specialist in cancer treatment – and your breast care nurse will talk you through your options.

If you are pregnant

If you are pregnant when you are due to have chemotherapy (or any other treatment for breast cancer), it is very important to discuss this with your breast care team. Some chemotherapy drugs are safe to take at some stages of pregnancy, whereas others are not. Your breast care team will discuss the risks and benefits of treatment with you. You should avoid becoming pregnant if you are receiving chemotherapy.

Information Standard

Information last reviewed: November 2017

Next review due: November 2020

Breast Cancer Now's health information is covered by NHS England's Information Standard quality mark. Find out how this resource was developed.