Who Can Skip Chemo for Breast Cancer Treatment?

About one in eight women during their lives will get the upsetting diagnosis breast cancer.

For many years this diagnosis has meant treatment that includes surgery and chemotherapy.

The surgery is intended to remove the cancer. The chemotherapy helps reduce the risk of the cancer returning.

Now, updated guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) have approved an innovative test called MammaPrint. It’s appropriate for certain breast cancer patients.

What Is MammaPrint?

MammaPrint is a gene test (also known as a genomic test). Aurora Health Care has been using it for some time. The test is appropriate for early stage invasive breast cancer.

The evidence-based ASCO guidelines approve use of MammaPrint for all women with this type of breast cancer.

The MammaPrint test analyzes the molecular biology of cancer rather than its stage. This is one of several genomic assays that provide prognostic and predictive information regarding recurrence risk and chemotherapy benefit. Aurora oncologists use these tests frequently, picking the one that they believe will provide the best results for each patient. 

“MammaPrint provides physicians and patients with unique genomic information to help personalize how their treatment is managed,” says Dr. William Audeh, chief medical officer at Agendia, which developed the test. “Reducing over treatment is an important goal. MammaPrint will play an important role in reaching this goal.”

Experts estimate that the test can help one in four women with early stage cancer avoid chemotherapy. Patients with this type of cancer should check with their health care providers. They can explain if this test would be appropriate for them.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

What are the signs of breast cancer? Watch for these symptoms:

  • A change in how your breast or nipple feels. This can include tenderness, a lump in the breast or in the armpit, or a change in skin texture.
  • A change in breast or nipple appearance. This can include size, dimpling, swelling, shrinking, asymmetry or inverted nipples.
  • Spontaneous or bloody nipple discharge.

If you notice these signs or have concerns about your breast health, see your health care provider.

Screening for Breast Cancer

A number of breast cancer detection tools are available. A key test is mammography.

For women, Aurora recommends at age 25 that you discuss with your health care provider your family history of breast cancer. Your provider can discuss if a referral to a genetics counselor would be appropriate.

At age 30, your provider will assess if you’re average, intermediate or high risk for breast cancer.

Women with a high risk should be referred to a breast health specialist. The specialist can discuss the best screening strategy.

Women with intermediate risk should have an annual screening mammogram starting at age 40. Discuss with your health care provider when the screenings can be discontinued.

Women with average risk may check with their provider about starting screening mammograms at age 40. We do recommend women with average risk start annual screening mammograms at age 45. Starting at age 55, the screening mammogram can be done every other year. Discuss with your provider when the screenings can be discontinued.

Need a doctor? Resources are available online to guide you. And lots of helpful health information is available on the Aurora Health Care Facebook page.

Meet the Author

John S. Maul MD, is a oncologist and hematologist at Aurora Health Center in Milwaukee, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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