A few years ago, if a women was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was an automatic chemotherapy and radiation sentence, along with surgery to remove the cancer. Many breast cancer experts are now rethinking this after the MammaPrint genomic test was approved by the FDA.
I fell into this category with my breast cancer diagnosis and used these tests to make the agonizing decision whether or not chemotherapy would provide a large enough risk of recurrence to warrant the ghastly side effects. We discuss this process on TheDoctorsTV show with my fabulous breast surgeon, Dr. Kristi Funk.
Chemotherapy is very effective in treating certain breast cancers, but comes at a steep price to your body. Chemotherapy affects your healthy cells in addition to the cancer cells in your body. This can cause many side effects such as illness and infection, hair loss, and nausea or vomiting. It can also cause permanent side effects such as heart problems, lung problems and nerve damage. So weighing the side effects of chemotherapy against the benefits and risk of recurrence felt like a deadly game of Russian Roulette.
The tests now used to help determine treatment options after breast surgery are Mammaprint and Oncotype DX. These tests look at your genetic make-up, and your team of doctors are able to use the results to determine the best treatment plan for you. But more importantly the results help project your risk of recurrence.
These tests are not for everyone with a breast cancer diagnosis. They are for people with hormone-receptor-positive, and HER2-negative breast cancer with a low risk of recurrence.
The best news, is it allows your doctors to provide individualized care, rather than the ‘standard of care’ that has long been used in the medical profession to treat this disease.
Did I move forward with Chemotherapy?
After an agonizing decision process, we ultimately decided with our team of doctors against chemotherapy and radiation.