Test Helps Breast Cancer Patients Avoid Chemo

By Scott Friedman
|  Monday, Aug 24, 2009  |  Updated 10:55 PM CDT
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Test Helps Docs Decide If Chemo Is Necessary

AP

A test that helps more woman with breast cancer avoid chemotherapy is being widely used across the Metroplex.

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Test Helps Docs Decide If Chemo Is Necessary

A test is helping doctors decide which breast cancer patients should have chemotherapy.
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A test that helps more woman with breast cancer avoid chemotherapy is being widely used across the Metroplex.

The test, oncotype DX, has been on the market for several years. It helps doctors make decisions about who should get chemotherapy and who should avoid the treatment, which comes with a long list of side effects.

Oncotype examines tumor tissue and genetics and gives patients a score between zero and 100. The lower the score, the lower the chance the cancer will come back.

"Adding all that information together gives us a really good idea of the individual patient, and that's really the idea," said Dr. Yvonne Coyle, a cancer specialist at Baylor University Medical Center.

Doctors say Medicare and most major insurance companies will cover the cost of the test.

Grace Grey automatically assumed she would need chemotherapy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. But her doctor told her not to jump to conclusions.

The oncotype confirmed that chemo was in her future, but Grey said the test and its numbers helped her accept and understand the need for the treatment.

Breast cancer survivor Carla English-Smith's oncotype results came as a huge relief. A score of seven told her doctors there was no need for chemotherapy.

"I burst into tears," said English-Smith, an editor at NBC 5. "I couldn't believe it, because I was prepared to go through chemo."

After surgery and radiation, she returned to normal activities more quickly, avoiding chemo's debilitating effects.

Doctors said they are hopeful similar tests can be developed for other types of cancer.

"Because we have the technology now, this is an area that's really exploding," Coyle said.

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