Breast cancer study reveals fewer women will need chemotherapy

A study released on Sunday found that a test can identity up to 85% of women with early-stage breast cancer who do not need to undergo chemotherapy.

The study, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine determined that women who had a low or mid-range cancer recurrence score can undergo hormone therapy and/or surgery instead of undergoing chemotherapy. In order to determine this, researchers had to use a test called Oncotype DX to determine how aggressive the cancer in each patient was. The test, which included the participation of 9 719 women, measured the risk for breast cancer recurrence, scoring women on a scale of 0-100. Typically, women with a higher score benefit more from chemotherapy.

During the experiment, women with a test score of 11-25, which is classified as mid-range breast cancer, were randomly assigned to either hormone therapy or chemotherapy. Women who are younger than 50 years old and had a recurrence score lower than 25 and women who are old than 50 and had a score lower than 15 can especially evade chemotherapy treatments.

Prior to the study, it was certain that women who scored less than 10 would did not need to undergo chemotherapy treatments. However, women who scored in the mid-range were left uncertain of whether they would benefit from chemotherapy treatment.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, breast cancer is the most common cancer in the world amongst women. In 2012, 1.7-million cases were diagnosed, representing 25% of all women’s cancer cases. According to their website, most breast cancers are hormone-related and the risk of occurrence “doubles in women each decade until menopause.” According to the 2011 national cancer registry, one in 29 South African women is diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

A co-author in the study, Loyola Medicine oncologist Dr Kathy Albain, is enthusiastic about the outcomes of the study, “The study should have a huge impact on doctors and patients. “Its findings will greatly expand the number of patients who can forgo chemotherapy without compromising their outcomes.”

“For countless women and their doctors, the days of uncertainty are over,” she said.

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