Chemo and Breast Cancer: Is it always inevitable?
Over the years, breast cancer diagnoses and treatments have improved, and women have experienced better outcomes than in previous generations. Some researchers now look at whether chemo is necessary in all cases and how much treatment is really needed.
The National Cancer Institute recently sponsored a medicine research trial to look at this question. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, this study spent over a decade following over 10,200 women with early-stage breast cancer. The findings were surprising.
Researchers found that women who have a certain type of breast cancer may not require chemotherapy. Fortunately, this is also the most common type of breast cancer that is reported.
Scientists were able to identify women who have this type of cancer using a genetics test in addition to low recurrence risk. According to the study, these patients could potentially avoid chemotherapy and its negative side effects. The study found that adjuvant hormone therapy given post-op worked as well alone as when it was combined with chemotherapy. This means approximately 70% of women with this type of cancer could avoid having to go through chemo if the genetic test is used.
Over the past few years, many doctors have been less inclined to use chemotherapy to treat breast cancer. This does not mean chemotherapy is not an effective treatment for some women. This study has simply identified a specific population of women for whom this treatment would make no discernable difference in outcomes.
Many factors determine a cancer treatment plan, including your family history, overall health, age, and the type and stage of breast cancer. Treatments can combine hormone therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiation. Always ask questions and consult with your team before opting into any procedure.