For the past decade, doctors have used a genetic test to individualize breast cancer treatment and determine if patients may be able to safely skip chemotherapy after surgery. Called Oncotype DX, the test analyzes 21 genes in a tumor to gauge a woman’s risk of the cancer returning after surgery.
A new study this week in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms again that this test is excellent at identifying the lowest risk patients.
For patients who fell into the test’s low-risk category, 99 percent didn’t develop metastatic breast cancer five years after surgery – even though they didn’t endure chemotherapy. The overall survival rate in this group was 98 percent, the NEJM report stated.
“It’s encouraging how we can continue to individualize breast cancer treatment based on the cancer’s biology,” said Dr. Boone Goodgame, a Ascension Seton Health Family oncologist who practices in Travis and Hays counties. “With timely, appropriate treatment and proper surgery, a large number of breast cancers can be easily treated and cured without chemotherapy.
“The outlook for many patients with breast cancer is excellent if treatment is started promptly, so anyone with a concern should be sure to see a physician right away,” Goodgame said.
Oncotype DX is recommended by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and is considered the standard of care for a particular type of breast cancer. Annually, about 230,000 patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer. About 100,000 qualify for the Oncotype DX, and 16,000 fall into the low-risk category. The test costs about $4,000 and is covered by most insurers, according to a recent National Public Radio report.
Early detection remains a key strategy in the fight against breast cancer. Now, women (and men) can schedule their screening mammography online at www.seton.net/mammo and have their results sent to the primary care physician. Those without a medical home can receive support from navigators at the Ascension Seton Breast Care Center.