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Topic: chemo brain?

Forum: Stage III Breast Cancer — You are not alone. Meet others who have Stage III breast cancer.

Posted on: Feb 24, 2010 06:23PM

kimber3006 wrote:

So I've heard the term "chemo brain" and just assumed that was what was going on with me, that it's normal at this stage in the game.  But is it?  I have to really concentrate HARD to answer questions and form intelligent, coherent responses at work.  I find myself wandering from room to room in my house not able to remember why I started into one and forgetting why I went to the next by the time I get there.  And for the record, I have a very small house!  On the phone I drop off in the middle of a sentence and after spacing out for a bit, finally admit I'm unable to remember what I was talking about.  I got a pan out of the kitchen cupboard last night, wandered into the living room with it still in my hand, and was just standing there spaced out when my husband reminded me I was going to start the water for the pasta.  Granted, the more tired I get, the worse it gets, but wow!  Will I be able to remember my way home by the end of this?  Don't even ask how long it took me to type this out......

Dx 11/9/2009, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 5/32 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2+
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Feb 24, 2010 06:33PM lexislove wrote:

Im 2 yrs past chemo....and I still have post chemo isuues. I did refer to it as "chemo brain", but after having a conversation with my onc about concentration ect..ect...he said its most likely due to lack of estrogen (Lupron) now. Undecided

Things are a bit better than say 1 year ago, but I am more forgetful. I have to write everything down. I use to be such a multitasker...not anymore. New normal I guess?

Dx:2007, 2B, Triple+, June 2008:Lupron,Zometa,Tamox.Jan 2010:Poor metabolizer of Tamox switch to Femara.Feb 2010: cyp2d6 test reliable? Back to Tamox. Ooph soon.
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Feb 24, 2010 06:37PM Bugs wrote:

Yep..yep!  I'm 4 years out and I would have to agree with Lexi that mine is a combo of chemo and lack of estrogen.  Estrogen..the wonder hormone.

I'm taking a class and my retention of this info is TERRIBLE.  I was complaining to my mom about that and she sounded so surprised "but in high school you tested so high in your retention"..yeah...umm..alot has happened and alot of years have gone by since then. :)

Dx 2/1/2006, IDC, 6cm+, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 3/16 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Feb 24, 2010 06:41PM lexislove wrote:

Bugs,

I was having a conversation with my husband a few weeks ago. I was telling him thank god I finished my education before my diagnosis. There would be no way I could have the motivation/drive, concentration and memory skills to do any schooling now. Frown

Dx:2007, 2B, Triple+, June 2008:Lupron,Zometa,Tamox.Jan 2010:Poor metabolizer of Tamox switch to Femara.Feb 2010: cyp2d6 test reliable? Back to Tamox. Ooph soon.
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Feb 24, 2010 07:00PM jenn3 wrote:

Chemo brain drove me crazy and gave my friends and family a lot to laugh at.  Twice while cooking I put a pan on the stove, turned on the burner and walked off.  Smelled something, went into the kitchen and oops..........I was burning the pan.   Another time I started to make lunch, got distracted walked away............about an hour later went back into the kitchen and for the life of me couldn't remember why food was on the counter, DH reminded me.  Then there were the times like you mentioned, mid sentence forgetting what the conversation was about.  I am also an avid reader and found that during chemo I couldn't read books, only magazines or newspapers.  My concentration level was terrible!!!  Although I still have spurts of feeling like I'm spaced it is better and I'm glad to say I've read two books since stopping chemo and am starting on a third. 

Jenn - June 2009 IDC-TN, Stage III, 02/2011 Stage IV mets to the lungs & spine / Laugh until your belly hurts, then laugh some more...........
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Feb 24, 2010 07:34PM Leah_S wrote:

Chemo brain was my roommate for a while! Fortunately, it does get better.

I was once doing errands during chemo when I noticed that I wasn't wearing my ring (replacement wedding ring) which I ALWAYS have on. I carefully looked through all my packages, didn't find it, and started to review in my head the stores I had been to so I could go back and search. Let's see, I just came from the bookstore, and before that -

Before that I was at the jeweller, where I'd dropped off my ring for repair.

Leah

Dx 11/3/2008, IDC, 1cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, 6/17 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Feb 24, 2010 08:28PM Diana63 wrote:

I was driving to work one day during treatment and got 2 blocks from the house I have lived in for over 20 years and couldn't remember where I was. Thats just one time, I have had many, many more chemo brain moments.

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Dx 10/6/2007, IDC, 5cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, 4/9 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Feb 24, 2010 08:58PM tamlyn110 wrote:

I am constantly forgetting words  that I want to use/say. I just can't think of them. I even forgot my doctors name. Sometimes I feel like I am going crazy and I think people think I am because I can't hold an intelligent conversation at times.

Tammy Dx 6/29/2009, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIIC, Grade 3, 15/21 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-
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Feb 24, 2010 09:12PM kathimdgd wrote:

I'm a year out from chemo,and while it's a little better,it hasn't gone completely away.

I made banana bread one day,put it in the toaster oven as my big oven was broken,got side tracked,went out to get the mail,brought it in,laid it on the table and thought it's nice out,so i went back out and went for a walk.Never gave that bread another thought.Walked down the street,came back up and walked over to my sons house,5 houses down the street from mine.He was washing his motorcycle,so i stood there for awhile and talked to him.Started cooling off,so i came back home.When i opened the door,i smelled the bread,duuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh.Luckily since it was the toaster oven it had a timer and i had remembered to set that,so it was ok as it shut itself off when it was done.Thank God,or i could have burned my house down.

My sisters and i get a few chuckles from our senior/chemo moments.LOL

Kathi

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Feb 24, 2010 09:59PM - edited Feb 24, 2010 10:03PM by weesa

Kimber, I had such bad chemo brain even after I felt better physically. I did absolutely all the things you have reported here. I couldn't hold a thought. One day, still during chemo, I lost my way home over very familiar roads. I knew that they were familiar roads, I just had to pull over and think for a while.

The worst examples of chemo brain, however, occurred after I had recovered physically. Here are two examples, both a few months after chemo: I went back to work full time, and as I have always done for years, I put my pocketbook over my shoulder last thing and exited the house. Repeatedly, I would say five or six times, I would be rushing around, and couldn't find my pocket book. I would get frantic and have my husband help me look so I wouldn't be too late. Every time he would look at me after searching for a few minutes, and say, 'Weesa, it is already on your shoulder."

The worst was one day I had been at a meeting outside the office. Driving back to the office I realized my cell phone was nowhere in the car with me. I was convinced I had it on my lap and when I got out of the car to go to the meeting it had fallen out onto the parking lot. I drove back and searched the parking lot and the floor of the car, no cell phone. I couldn't see it anywhere. Then...I realized I had been talking on it the same time I was searching for it.

 Every day for years now I called my voice mail in the morning to leave a fresh message, "You have reached my desk, today is such and such a date, I am probably out of the office, please leave me a message and I will return your call..." etc. etc. I could not say this message, I would stumble across the words, finally after multiple tries I would get something that sounded fairly good, but several people who knew me well knew I didn't normally stutter or flub words. That went away gradually.

For quite a while Chemo brain was dubious--but now with testing it has been quantifiable. It is not your imagination!. 

Sometimes I wonder if I am an old soul temporarily trapped in a breast cancer body. Dx 11/22/2002, IDC, 6cm+, Stage IIIA, Grade 2, 5/25 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 1/20/2003 Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Radiation Therapy 6/14/2003 Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy 8/23/2003 Femara (letrozole) Surgery Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (right): Latissimus dorsi flap
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Feb 24, 2010 10:29PM lexislove wrote:

Im constantly freaking out about remembering to turn off the stove.

One morning I was doing some baking. I was also trying to get my 4 yr old ready for pre school and doing 10 other things at least...lol.

Whatever I was baking was finished. I took out of the oven and turned the oven OFF. Then I headed out the door to start my erands. I was 20 minutes away from the house....then I froze. Omg...did I turn off the oven?!

I retracked all my last moves before heading out the door....but I still wasn't sure. I actually turned the car around and went home. My daughter was late...I was flustered and panicking...and the oven was OFF. Undecided

Dx:2007, 2B, Triple+, June 2008:Lupron,Zometa,Tamox.Jan 2010:Poor metabolizer of Tamox switch to Femara.Feb 2010: cyp2d6 test reliable? Back to Tamox. Ooph soon.
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Feb 24, 2010 10:30PM wallan wrote:

HI there:

  I have chemo brain! I am 6 years out and I still am forgetful and cannot concentrate for long periods of time on tasks at work. I am a scientist, so this makes it a bit challenging.

My oncologist acknowledged that I have chemo brain. It is a real phenomena.

I can say though, my fogginess and forgetfulness has improved, though not gone.

Another effect of treatment. After awhile you just have to laugh!

wallan 

Dx 3/29/2004, IDC, Right, 6cm+, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 2/18 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 3/31/2004 Lymph node removal: Right, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Right Chemotherapy 5/31/2004 AC + T (Taxol) Radiation Therapy 11/30/2004 Whole-breast: Breast, Lymph nodes, Chest wall Dx 1/25/2017, LCIS/DCIS/ILC/IDC/IDC: Mucinous/IDC: Cribriform, Left, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 3/7/2017 Lymph node removal: Sentinel; Mastectomy: Left; Reconstruction (left): Tissue expander placement; Reconstruction (right): Fat grafting Hormonal Therapy Aromasin (exemestane), Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone)
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Feb 24, 2010 11:30PM janincanada wrote:

Oh do I relate to these stories.  I have significant chemo brain, enough that i have not returned to work yet.  I was diagnosed 22 months ago.  I can't multitask, remember what I read, or do basic arithmetic in my head plus many of the issues mentioned in your posts.  The problem is that I teach children with behavioural issues and learning difficulties.  You have to be able to multi-task.  You need to know what each child is doing while you work one on one with a child.  Otherwise, chaos will develop very quickly. 

You do have to keep your sense of humour though.  Thank heavens for GPS and I can enjoy novels more than once since I don't remember them.  It has gotten a bit better since treatment and I hope that it continues to improve. 

Dx 3/26/2008, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 4/10 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Feb 25, 2010 12:12AM JanetH77 wrote:

My whopper happened when the scheduler brought me an appointment card during chemo for my next treatment.  At the end of that day's treatment, I went to the appointment desk and made an appointment, totally forgetting that I already had an appointment.  I didn't figure out my error until I got a call from the cancer center saying I'd missed an appointment the previous day.

I still have difficulty remembering words, especially names, but I do think my memory has gotten better since I completed chemo at the end of September.

Dx 5/22/2009, lumpectomy 6/9, bilateral mastectomy 6/26; IDC, 1.9cm, Stage 2, Grade 3, 2/19 nodes, triple negative; started taxotere/carboplatin x 4 7/28, finished 9/29
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Feb 25, 2010 01:18AM karen1956 wrote:

4 years since Dx and 3 1/2 years since finishing chemo.....I swear that I still have chemo brain....now some people tell me well your 4 years older (yeah, I know that), but memory is not what it used to be....and when I am fatigued, the brain just does not work....I started taking stimulants a couple years ago and that has helped....but chemo, lack of estrogen and all the other fun has sure taken its toll.....call it what you want, but I just am not who I was before all this s****!!!

Karen in Denver, Dx 02/03/2006, ILC, stage IIIa, ER/PR+, HER2-,
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Feb 25, 2010 08:03AM KerryMac wrote:

Kimber - your description of you standing there with your pan made me laugh!! Yep, i am more forgetful too. And I think I have issues with finding words sometimes. And finishing sentences.

My husband and I play a lot of Scrabble, and I think that has helped in keeping my mind focused on things.

Kerry - Dx Oct 2008, Stage IIIa IDC, ER/PR+ Mx, Chemo, Rads, Ooph, Arimidex, Zometa, Tamoxifen
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Feb 25, 2010 08:39AM Pure wrote:

my husband-10 years out-still has serious memory issues. We actually got him tested for ADD but they think it was the chemo drugs. So now we are both useless.

Dx 8/8/2009, IDC, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Feb 25, 2010 09:09AM janincanada wrote:

Sh**! Chemo brain strikes again.  I forgot to post the main thing I wanted to say in my earlier post.  A lot of you are mentioning a possible link between a change in hormones and the chemobrain.  In my case I'm hormone negative and went into menopause at 34 due to a hysterectomy. I still have major chemobrain. So....in my case it doesn't have any correlation with hormones or lack thereof.

Dx 3/26/2008, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 4/10 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Feb 25, 2010 04:57PM maltomlin wrote:

I forgot to put the beef in a beef casserole yesterday - again!

And I'm nearly two years out from chemo.

Mal x

Dx 5/2/2008, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIB, Grade 3, 3/24 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 6/15/2008 Lumpectomy: Right Chemotherapy 7/21/2008 Ellence (epirubicin), Xeloda (capecitabine) Hormonal Therapy 12/29/2008 Femara (letrozole) Radiation Therapy 1/7/2009 Breast
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Feb 25, 2010 05:15PM - edited Feb 25, 2010 05:15PM by apple

yeah..

I was reading about Hussein, Osama Hussein and marveled at his beard, wondered why those beautiful eyes housed a soul so twisted and cruel.

I wondered why cruel and gruel happened to rhyme.

peace and love, apple - ..... Mary Magdalen Dx 4/10/2008, IDC, 5cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, 4/9 nodes, mets, ER+, HER2+
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Feb 25, 2010 06:21PM janincanada wrote:

How about this one. I can't eat regular bread as I'm allergic to gluten so I was making bread and my hubby walked in and asked me a question. I responded and went back to making bread.  Too bad I forgot to put in the yeast! I make a lovely doorstop.

Dx 3/26/2008, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 4/10 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Feb 25, 2010 06:49PM Leah_S wrote:

OK, Karen, what stimulants are you taking? I'd like to remember more than 2 things a day.

Leah

Dx 11/3/2008, IDC, 1cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, 6/17 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Feb 25, 2010 10:17PM karen1956 wrote:

Leah,

 I am taking Vyvanse...50mg.....was on Adderal XR before that.  Even with the stimulants, I'm not the same person as I was before Dx.  I realize that I am 4 years older, but I don't believe all the changes are do to age...I still blame a lot on BC and chemo.  Before BC, I hardly took any meds, and now post BC, I think I have 8 or 9 Rx!!!!  Who would ever think that at 53, going on 54, my life would be run by pharmaceuticals!!!!

Happy Purim....and have a great Shabbat.  BTW...my oldest DD is also Leah!

Hugs, Karen

Karen in Denver, Dx 02/03/2006, ILC, stage IIIa, ER/PR+, HER2-,
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Feb 28, 2010 10:29AM lamuso wrote:

I am so greatful I found this topic.  At my last dr. visit I was complaining about my forgetfulness to my onc.  I had heard the term 'chemo brain' and asked my dr. about it.  He basically said he didn't believe in chemo brain.  I am a year and four months out from chemo. I can relate to and have done many of the things you gals mention in your postings above.

Leslie Dx 5/29/2008, ILC, 5cm, Stage IIB, Grade 1, 1/13 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Feb 28, 2010 04:03PM cherneski wrote:

OMG I am still a total idiot at times.  Some times I am ok, other times I need a helmet and the short bus. 

Deborah dx 38 DCIS, IDC, ILC, BRCA- 6 rounds Taxotere+Cytoxin, 25 rads. Dx 4/9/2009, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 7/13 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 5/6/2009 Mastectomy: Left, Right Chemotherapy 6/5/2009 Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Radiation Therapy 11/15/2009 Breast, Lymph nodes Surgery 7/14/2010 Reconstruction (left): DIEP flap; Reconstruction (right): DIEP flap Hormonal Therapy 8/17/2014 Femara (letrozole)
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Feb 28, 2010 07:58PM janincanada wrote:

Great use of words Cherneski.  The problem is that I need to get to the point where I can teach the kids with the helmets who are on the short bus.  So far I can't do it, cuz they are able to do more than me at times, expecially in the multitasking area.

Dx 3/26/2008, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 4/10 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Feb 28, 2010 11:28PM cherneski wrote:

I literally cant walk and talk on the phone most times.  If I am walking, chances are I am going to do something and if I am on the phone I cant do both cause I will either forget what I am walking to or the conversation on the phone.  Yeah it is pretty bad.  DH has been working with 2 guys for about 2 months now, he talks a little about them each day.  I have NO IDEA what their names are!  NONE!  He tells me their names everyday and I have no idea what so ever. 

Deborah dx 38 DCIS, IDC, ILC, BRCA- 6 rounds Taxotere+Cytoxin, 25 rads. Dx 4/9/2009, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 7/13 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 5/6/2009 Mastectomy: Left, Right Chemotherapy 6/5/2009 Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Radiation Therapy 11/15/2009 Breast, Lymph nodes Surgery 7/14/2010 Reconstruction (left): DIEP flap; Reconstruction (right): DIEP flap Hormonal Therapy 8/17/2014 Femara (letrozole)
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Mar 4, 2010 03:40PM HairSprayMom wrote:

Yep Chemo Brain totally blows! I am 2 yrs 5 mo out and I still have issues. My day planner is my best friend. All I can say is WRITE IT DOWN.

XO,

Regina

DX @37 Sep. 2007 Metaplastic Carcinoma Trip Neg Stage 3B (1&2cm tumor on chest wall) "Always remember CAN'T never could get anything done!" Dx 9/26/2007, 3cm, Stage IIIB, Grade 3, 0/5 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-
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Mar 6, 2010 11:18AM janincanada wrote:

I hear you.  I write it down and then forget to look at my planner.  I write it on the calendar and forget that too.  I program it into my phone's scheduler and then leave the phone at home or forget to charge it.  My best strategy is to tell my hubby.  In the morning we look at the various schedules and he gently reminds me if I forget something.  That helps me get to appts and remember to meet freinds for lunch.  At almost 2 years out it is getting a bit better at least in remembering appts.  Names, books, plots, etc are another thing completely. 

the scheduler on my phone is the best though as long as I have the phone with me. I set it up to remind me in the am what's going on for the day and then it beeps 1\2 hour before I have to leave, 15min and then when I should go. It seems excessive, but I do tend to forget in the interval between starting to go upstairs to do something and walking upstairs.  I also will set my timer on my stove to beep to remind me it is time to leave for physio or yoga etc.

Dx 3/26/2008, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 4/10 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Mar 6, 2010 11:41AM jenn3 wrote:

I'm back at work full time and while I feel like I'm doing pretty good, but do find certain situations or procedures that slip my mind and I am forced to look up the information.  Concentration is better, but it still seems a little off at times.  I do try to mentally challenge myself with crosswords and other mind games - working out the muscle between the ears.............

Even though we have computers, phones and other electronic equipment to give us reminders I find that the good ole' post-it notes help the best.  I use a bright color and stick it to my phone or my keys if I want to remember something as I'm walking out of the door, on the dash of the car or on the phone receiver at work.  I have to say I needed these before chemo - so I can't blame it on chemo brain.  I also leave messages for myself on my voicemail at work - this really helps a lot.

Jenn - June 2009 IDC-TN, Stage III, 02/2011 Stage IV mets to the lungs & spine / Laugh until your belly hurts, then laugh some more...........
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Mar 6, 2010 11:54AM Mandy1313 wrote:

I've had chemo brain since my 6th of 8 chemo tx.  At that time I became aphasic and could not produce words. I would start a sentence and then could not get the rest of the words out.  It has gotten better in the past year, but I am far from my pre-chemo state, and I cannot make connections the way I used to.   For example, I used to be able to remember names without difficulty. Now I will be able to describe the person, but cannot always produce the name.  It is quite frustrating.  As well, I have a great deal of trouble focusing. This is not due to loss of estrogen.

For reminders, I send myself emails using my "blackberry" cell phone whenever I think of something. I just put in the re line "to do".  So far I have not lost the phone. :-) 

Dx 6/2008, IDC, 1cm, Grade 1, 1/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-

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