Health - Fight Cancer News

Sep 12, 2009 8:54 AM by Jamie Smith

Test helps some breast cancer patients avoid chemotherapy

For women diagnosed with breast cancer -- chemotherapy can be one of the biggest challenges. But a new test is helping more women avoid chemo, and it's helping others gain confidence to take on the difficult treatment.

When Grace Grey was diagnosed with breast cancer, she assumed chemotherapy was in her future. "It's just very frightening and there's so many big huge words you don't understand," she said.

But then her doctor told her about a relatively new test -- called Oncotype DX. It examines tumor tissue and genetics -- and helps doctors determine if a patient will really benefit from chemo.

"Adding all that information together gives us a really good view of the individual patient - and that's really the idea," Dr. Yvonne Coyle, an oncologist, said. The test gives the patient a score between zero and 100. The lower the number - the lower the risk the cancer will return.

"I was at an extremely high risk for a reoccurrence," Grey said. In her case -- the test confirmed she did need chemo. But she says it was easier to accept -- with the numbers to back up the decision.

For Carla English the Oncotype test came with a different outcome. "I burst into tears - I couldn't believe it because I was prepared to have to go through chemo," she said.

Her score was a seven -- a low number that told doctors she did not need chemo to treat her breast cancer. "I'm able to move on that much quicker and I've finished radiation and I feel like my life is back to normal finally," English said.

Doctors are now hopeful they can develop similar tests -- for other kinds of cancer as well. "Because we have the technology now, this area's really exploding," Dr. Coyle said.

Helping patients make decisions -- with better information. Doctors tell us most major inusrance companies and medicare will cover the cost of the test.

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