Saturday, August 26, 2017

Aggressive, 'just-in-case' treatments unnecessary

New test can shield breast cancer patients from unneeded treatments, study indicates

A new tumor test can help identify which breast cancers don't need extra treatment.

According to a recent KQED morning edition piece by Joe Neal and Patti Neighmond, "more and more studies are showing many small, early tumors don't present a danger."

The public-radio report, under the rubric "Shots: health news from NPR," indicated that a study published in JAMA Oncology suggested that it's possible "to distinguish fairly precisely between 'ultralow-risk' tumors that are unlikely to cause problems and those that are more aggressive and likely to spread."

Which translates into some patients being able to, according to the piece, "avoid unnecessary treatments."

The MammaPrint diagnostic test, used by researchers in the United States and Sweden, apparently can measure a tumor's genomic "fingerprint" and compare it with survival time after a tumor is removed.

The NPR story reported that the researchers said "they were able to pinpoint patients who had a very low risk of death from breast cancer — even up to 20 years after the first diagnosis."

Dr. Laura Esserman
The piece quoted Dr. Laura Esserman of the University of California, San Francisco, the lead author of the study, as saying what it means is that "we don't have to be aggressive upfront and treat you with everything, just in case."

The test results, it continued, "build on findings of a 2016 report using the same test that  showed 46 percent of women with certain genetic profiles could actually skip chemotherapy with little consequence to their long-term survival."

According to Esserman, it appears that about 20 to 25 percent of tumors being diagnosed today may be ultralow-risk and not require treatment after surgery.

The tumor test, which isn't covered by all insurance companies, is not cheap. It costs $4,200.

Many more details about much more research on breast cancer can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, geared to caregivers.

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