This Navigator topic is your stepping stone to finding quality, current information on chemotherapy treatment for early breast cancer, from a range of reputable sources. This information is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather to provide a starting point to information seeking.
It is aimed at women who have been diagnosed with early breast cancer and are faced with making decisions about treatment options including chemotherapy. Having access to quality information to help you make informed decisions is vital.
What is chemotherapy?
For patients with early breast cancer, the aim of chemotherapy is to use one or more drugs to kill breast cancer cells that may have spread outside the breast or armpit area, or that cannot be detected.
Features of chemotherapy:
Deciding whether to undergo chemotherapy
The decision about whether or not to have chemotherapy is an individual one, and you will need to weigh up the likely benefits against potential side effects.
Understanding the percentage increase in survival as it applies to your situation, and being able to discuss this with your oncologist, is an important step in taking control of your cancer treatment.
To help in your decision making you can:
There are also valuable resources contained in this Navigator topic to inform and guide your decision making.
When making decisions about chemotherapy treatment, you may wish to consider the following questions. These questions may help you decide about the treatment of your breast cancer. You might want the answers to some of the questions straight away, while some may become important later on. You can either ask these questions directly to your oncologist or other medical specialist, or use them as a guide to put together your own questions.
There are few organisations that focus solely on chemotherapy. You will find the majority of useful resources about chemotherapy under the online and offline resources section of this navigator. The links below will direct you to the home page of organisations where you can search their site independently. Please note that not all trials are available in all hospitals. Speak with your treating team for advice.
A webpage on Cancer Council Victoria's website listing all the major cancer treatment centres across Victoria.
Breast Cancer Trials (formerly The Australian and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group) conducts breast cancer clinical trials in order to identify improved treatments and treatment strategies for breast cancer. Their website has information on clinical trials and how you may be able to participate.
Cancer Trials Australia (CTA) is a Melbourne-based, not-for-profit service organisation that conducts cancer clinical trials. Its members include Melbourne Health, Peter Mac, The Royal Women’s Hospital and Western Health. It includes a list of clinical trials open for patient participation at Victorian hospitals who are members of CTA.
The Victorian Cancer Trials Link is a searchable database on the website of Cancer Council Victoria, of all cancer clinical trials being conducted in Victoria. It can be used by consumers. If you want to know about or participate in clinical trials relevant to you, you can use this website to find a trial that "matches" your specific diagnosis and treatment situation.
This list provides links to key pieces of evidence-based information about chemotherapy for early breast cancer. The list includes downloadable fact sheets, pamphlets, or PDFs and web pages.
A brochure on chemotherapy for breast cancer produced by The Westmead Breast Cancer Institute in NSW. It discusses how chemotherapy is administered, some of the common drugs used and the common side effects that may be experienced.
Formerly the My Journey Kit, this tool is now online. Sign up to access information that can be tailored to your own situation. Find information on chemotherapy under the treatment section.
Although not breast cancer specific, this page clearly explains how chemotherapy works, what to expect, and side effects to watch for. Use 'Download PDF' button at the bottom of the page for the booklet 'Understanding chemotherapy' (described below).
This booklet explains how chemotherapy works, side effects and gives advice on making treatment decisions. Also available in hard copy.
In episode 3 of this podcast Medical Oncologist, Dr Craig Carden, talks about what to expect from your first round of chemotherapy.
Short Australian videos explaining a range of aspects relating to cancer treatment. Several of these relate to chemotherapy and its effects.
Printable patient information sheets covering a range of topics relating to chemotherapy and its effects. Translated into Arabic, Chinese simplified, Chinese traditional, French, Greek, Italian, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.
A web page on chemotherapy on the website of US breastcancer.org’s website. In addition to looking at how chemotherapy works; chemotherapy medicines and combinations; what to expect and managing the side effects of chemotherapy, this site has a section exploring fears related to having chemotherapy. Scroll down for a link to a useful fact sheet on 'Community Member tips for chemotherapy treatment'.
This web page, although not breast cancer specific, provides clear information on how chemotherapy works, its effects, and practical information such as dietary needs and managing work. Keep in mind that this is US-focused, so financial information does not apply to Australia.
Easy to read information. Explains how chemotherapy works, common chemotherapy drugs and regimens (combinations of chemotherapy drugs) that may be used, and their side effects.
Presented in collaboration with the Heart Foundation, Professor Liza Thomas outlines the long-term impacts of cancer treatment on heart health. With Julie Anne Mitchell. Hosted by Kellie Holland.
A worksheet to help you document the side affects you may experience from chemotherapy in order to be able to discuss them with your doctor.
This web page explains the reasons for hair loss and gives tips to help you manage it. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a link to the wig service, where you will also find videos on wearing wigs and tying scarves.
Peripheral neuropathy (damage to nerves in hands, feet and lower legs) is a side effect of some cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy treatment. Consultant Medical Oncologist Shirley Wong explains why it happens, risk factors and what can be done to help. Recorded at Counterpart Resource Centre, Melbourne, on 20 February 2019.
In this webinar recording, Dr Adrian Schembri discusses the relationships between cancer, chemotherapy and brain function in this presentation held at Counterpart.
In episode 14 of the podcast 'The thing about cancer', Julie McCrossin and medical oncologist Professor Janette Vardy discuss her research into 'chemo brain'.
Elizabeth Pearson, Occupational Therapist, PhD, discusses the evidence for managing cancer-related fatigue. 2018
In episode 3 of the podcast 'The thing about cancer', Julie McCrossin and Dr Haryana Dhillon discuss ways of managing cancer fatigue.
In episode 7 of the podcast 'The thing about cancer', Julie McCrossin and dietitian Merran Findlay talk about ways to nourish your body during cancer treatment.
Use the search box to find Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) sheets on drugs you have been prescribed. These explain the use, administration and side effects of each drug.
This is a list of hard copy resources such as books and CDs that are not readily available online.
Professor Trish Greenhalgh and Dr Liz O'Riordan both have medical backgrounds, and were both diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. This book describes the experiences from diagnosis to life after treatment, with their unique personal experiences.
Written by an Australian Oncologist, this book includes a comprehensive chapter on chemotherapy and developing treatment plans. It also examines the issues involved in determining by how much chemotherapy may improve an individual’s chances of survival. Available in the Counterpart Resource Centre. Not for loan.
Boyages J, Boycare Publishing, 2010
The following websites include personal stories in both written and in video format, and include blogs and online forums. The information contained in these links reflects the personal experiences of individuals and does not constitute evidence-based research or information.
Counterpart is a unique free information and support service for Victorian women living with breast or gynaecological cancers. You can speak with trained peer support volunteers who have experienced cancer themselves.
Personal cartoon-style blog of French Australian Magelie Lameloise who was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 33 with a young baby. She was treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and lumpectomy. Includes a link to download her ebook 'And then I had breast cancer'.
The chemotherapy section of BCNA's online network for those affected by breast cancer. It includes discussions by people who have experienced chemotherapy.
A US based breast cancer forum including discussions about chemotherapy before, during and after treatment from women who have had, or are having, the experience.