We all know the statistics. One in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer by age 90. Although breast cancer survival rates have increased thanks to improvements in treatment, early detection, and awareness, breast cancer still kills more women than any other cancer except lung cancer.
This year alone, more than 260,000 U.S. women will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer and begin treatment. Breast cancer treatment may include chemotherapy and all of the associated side effects including nausea, fatigue, hair loss, and decreased immune function. That’s why a new study published earlier this month in the New England Journal of Medicine is so important.
A landmark study presented at this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting looked at a genetic test done on tumors in many early stage breast cancer patients, and evaluated how well this test correlated with the risk of breast cancer recurrence. For women who had results in the middle range, chemotherapy was often recommended in the past. This group of patients was randomized to receive chemotherapy or not. The study found that chemotherapy provided little to no benefit for these women. This means that it is safe for these women to skip chemotherapy – without affecting their chances of beating the disease.
“This study’s results are very exciting for many women diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Elizabeth Feldman, MD, breast surgeon at Reston Hospital Center. “Avoiding chemotherapy is life altering for women. Having scientific evidence that we can safely avoid chemotherapy helps us skip unnecessary treatment. These results will optimize treatment for many breast cancer patients.”
Women affected by this study have early-stage breast cancer that is estrogen receptor positive and HER-2 negative, with no lymph node involvement. The genetic test assesses 21 genes expressed by breast cancers, and uses that information to predict how likely it is that an individual woman’s breast cancer will come back within 10 years. If the risk of recurrence is low or intermediate, most patients can safely skip chemotherapy. The test is an example of the burgeoning trend toward individualized medicine – using a tumor’s unique genetic makeup to customize treatment for the individual.
Reston Hospital’s Breast Center is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers as a Breast Center of Excellence, and our Women's Imaging Center is accredited by the American College of Radiology as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence. Learn more about our breast cancer care at Reston Hospital Center.
Know your breast cancer risk – and take steps to reduce it.
Breast Cancer Risk Assessment
Assess your risk for breast cancer using this FREE online tool.