Simple Genetic Test could Spare Women from Early Stages of Breast Cancer

A study has shown that a simple genetic test that is given to patients who are in the early stages of breast cancer, could help doctors and surgeons determine the likelihood of the disease returning and whether further treatment would be necessary. It could affect almost half of women who have been given positive results for early stage breast cancer and negate the use of chemotherapy, which produces distressing side effects. The Oncotype DX® test is a diagnostic test that is performed after your original breast cancer surgery. Like other laboratory tests, it must be ordered by an authorized healthcare provider. Below is a checklist that may help you determine if you are a potential candidate for the OncotypeDX test.

You may be a candidate for the Oncotype DX test if:

  • You have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, and you and your doctor are making treatment decisions regarding chemotherapy.
  • You have been diagnosed with stage I or II invasive breast cancer.
  • Your breast cancer is estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+).
  • You do not have lymph node involvement (this is known as lymph-node-negative breast cancer).

The test is non invasive and takes a small sample of breast tumour tissue, which then is used to concentrate on the part of the tissue that holds the genes responsible for influencing how likely a cancer is to grow and its predisposition to respond to treatment. Doctors and surgeons can then look at these results and determine whether it is beneficial to use chemotherapy, which can result in debilitating side effects such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting and hair loss. As Simon Holt, who is a breast surgeon at the Hywel Dda Health Board in Wales found, a study in which 46 per cent of patients are often given unnecessary chemotherapy, this simple genetic test would prove to be most beneficial to women as it could help to determine the best course of action regarding their treatment. He discovered that from 142 NHS patients who were diagnosed with oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer, all had initially been offered chemotherapy. It is hoped that should this test become available across the UK, it will lead to better decision making for improved treatment and ongoing care.

He added, “With nearly 50,000 women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer each year in the UK, a genomic test like Oncotype DX that is capable of predicting treatment benefits and/or outcomes may have an important role to play in improving treatment decision making and ultimately impacting on quality of care.” There are also financial benefits to consider if using this genetic test as Mr Holt pointed out, speaking at the San Antonio Breast Cancer symposium. A Bupa report revealed that costs of cancer diagnosis and treatment across the UK NHS, private and voluntary sector were estimated at £9.4 billion. Mr Holt continued, “Oncotype DX allows us to use our health funds more effectively while sparing patients from unnecessary chemotherapy. The test is currently available in the U.S. and The American Society for Clinical Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network now include it in their treatment guidelines for early breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and around 46,000 women are diagnosed with the disease each year.”

It appears that post-menopausal women recently diagnosed with node-positive, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer may also be appropriate candidates for the Oncotype DX test. The decision whether or not to take the Oncotype DX test is one that you and your doctor should make together. For more information about getting tested, including suggestions for talking with your doctor about the Oncotype DX test, visit oncotypedx.com website.