Breast Cancer: A Guide for Patients

ESMO Guides for Patients are designed to assist patients, their relatives and caregivers to better understand the nature of different types of cancer and evaluate the best available treatment choices.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a cancer that forms in the tissues of the breast – usually in the ducts or lobules. Breast cancer can be categorised by whether it is non-invasive or invasive. Breast cancer is also categorised by how advanced the disease is into early, locally-advanced and metastatic. Breast cancer can be classified into subtypes based on hormonal and HER2 receptor status as follows: luminal A-like (ER and PgR positive, HER2 negative tumours), luminal B-like (ER and/or PgR positive, HER2 positive or negative tumours), HER2 overexpressing (ER and PgR negative, HER2 positive tumours) and basal-like (triple-negative tumours). It is important for determining the breast cancer treatment.

Beyond a definition of breast cancer, in this guide for patients you will find answers to questions such as:

  • How common is breast cancer?
  • What causes breast cancer?
  • How is breast cancer diagnosed?
  • How will my treatment be determined?
  • What are the treatment options for breast cancer?
  • Special populations
  • Clinical trials
  • Supplementary interventions
  • What are the possible side effects of the treatments?
  • What happens after my treatment has finished?
  • Support groups

This guide has been prepared to help you, your friends and your family better understand the nature of breast cancer and the treatments that are available. The medical information described in this document is based on ESMO clinical practice guidelines for the management of early and advanced breast cancer. We recommend that you ask your doctor about the tests and types of treatments available in your country for your type and stage of breast cancer.

Published in 2018