Breast Cancer Study: Chemo Not Required

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The extensive study revealed that approximately 70 percent of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer might not benefit from a treatment protocol that includes chemotherapy.

Findings of the past have indicated that women who met these criteria and scored below ten on the index test could safely skip chemotherapy without raising their rate of recurrence, however, those above 25 would nearly always be advised to use chemotherapy as a necessary treatment to lower risk of recurrence. The two most recent studies it is funding look at tomosynthesis - a newer breast imaging technique - versus standard-of-care 3D mammograms, and research on whether weight loss impacts breast cancer treatment and outcomes.

The study focused on those women with a mid-range recurrence score of 11-25, as uncertainty still remains as to whether chemotherapy is beneficial for this group. In addition, women 50 and younger who scored between zero and 15 could be spared chemotherapy. Many women think "if I don't get chemotherapy I'm going to die, and if I get chemo I'm going to be cured", but the results show there's a sliding scale of benefit and sometimes none, he said. Furthermore, 83.3% of those from the endocrine-only group were cancer free, while 84.3% of those from the combined therapy were cancer free.


Those who score high - 26-100 - receive both hormone therapy and chemotherapy.

There are several ways you can lower your risk of breast cancer: Get an annual breast screening, for most women this begins at age 40; be physically active and exercise; reduce lifetime weight by making healthy food choices; avoid smoking; limit alcohol intake; and practice meditation, do yoga or find other ways to reduce stress.

There is one caveat to the new findings. By continuing the personalized assessment of an individual's cancer recurrence risk, oncologists can more effectively determine specifically-tailored treatments based on that patient's genomic results. However, it is unclear if this benefit is due to the effect of chemotherapy or to endocrine suppression caused by chemotherapy-induced menopause.


Although the new findings are extremely promising for women who have early-stage breast cancer, the conclusions may not apply to those who have larger tumors or those battling cancer that has spread throughout the body.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, some foundations and proceeds from the US breast cancer postage stamp. Since 1998, when the charity stamp was authorized by Congress and first issued by the United States Postal Service, more than $86 million has been raised for breast cancer research.


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