According to a recent study, many people with common, early signs of breast cancer may be able to completely skip the process of chemotherapy. And this prospect has women all over the world rejoicing.
Chemotherapy has many side effects, including anemia, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and susceptibility to infection. As such, the utilization of chemo is typically when doctors deem it necessary for a patient.
However, this decision of chemo being “necessary” or not has a large gray area. For instance, doctors often analyze the tumors of breast cancer patients through the use of a Oncotype DX Test.
The test assesses the activity of 21 specific genes. It then gives a “recurrence score” between 0-100.
High scores indicate the cancer is likely to recur, and grow to other parts of the body. In these cases, the utilization of chemotherapy, as well as surgery or radiation therapy, is necessary.
Traditionally, patients with scores of 0-10 generally do not receive chemo, and those with scores of 26 and above do. Therefore, the confusion and “gray area” lies within the range of 11-25, where coincidentally most breast cancer patients fall.
To get a better idea of which patients require chemo, researchers began a large-scale investigation. Their results of this study are now in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Using data from 10,000 women (whom all had the most common form of breast cancer), the researchers split the study participants into two groups. One group was given hormone therapy and chemotherapy, while the other was only given hormone therapy.
After following the women and assessing for outcomes, the researchers made a remarkable discovery. According to Medical News Today:
When the study group was analyzed as a whole, there were no significant differences between the two groups.
In women under the age of 50, outcomes were similar when test scores were 15 or below. For younger women with scores of 16–25, chemotherapy slightly improved outcomes.
“With [the] results of this groundbreaking study, we now can safely avoid chemotherapy in about 70 percent of patients who are diagnosed with the most common form of breast cancer.”
– Study co-author Dr. Kathy Albain