The best breast cancer treatment for you
No two women are the same, and neither are their breast cancers. Cutting-edge genomic tests can therefore be valuable tools for determining the best treatment for YOU. Christine S. from France tells her story about the test that helped her avoid chemo.
When she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, Christine’s surgeon told her about a diagnostic test that could provide more information about her tumour. “For several reasons, I finally chose to have surgery and take this recommended test on the advice of my surgeon,” she says. “This was to try to avoid, if possible, chemotherapy treatment that initially seemed very likely.”
From a sample of Christine’s tumour, the genomic test was able to analyse the activity of 21 genes that might influence how likely her cancer was to grow and respond to treatment. If a patient’s cancer type meets the criteria for having the test, doctors can use it to help with their treatment plans. In Christine’s case, it allowed her doctors to determine that chemotherapy wasn’t necessary.
“When the results arrived about ten days after sending the biopsy to California, it turned out that I could actually avoid chemotherapy! As a trained biologist, I was able to discuss my illness with my surgeon at length, and he explained all the risks and benefits of chemotherapy,” she explains. “My surgeon also spoke with the hospital team in charge of my radiotherapy and everyone agreed to avoid chemotherapy and adapt my treatment only to radiotherapy and hormone therapy.”
Nevertheless, the radiotherapy treatment was tiring and Christine had to significantly cut down on her workload. She’s grateful, however, that she was able to continue working part time because it helped her overall wellbeing. “Like so many women who have experienced such an ordeal, life really changes after that. I appreciate everything much more than before,” she notes. “I am very happy that I did not have to take on the extra burden of chemotherapy, which I believe would have made my life even more difficult,” says the mother of five.
Christine feels strongly that women should know this test exists because it allows patients to get additional information about certain types of tumours and in some cases can prevent unnecessary chemotherapy treatment. It is both a prognostic test, since it provides more information about how likely (or unlikely) the breast cancer is to come back, and a predictive test, since it predicts the likelihood of benefit from chemotherapy.
“Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had never heard of this diagnostic test,” she says. “In addition to the savings in terms of treatment, I am convinced that this test gives women quality of life when they need it the most. I recommend this test to everybody who is able to have it!”
While their names sound similar, genomic testing and genetic testing are very different. Genetic testing is done on a sample of your blood, saliva or other tissue and can tell if you have an abnormal change in a gene that’s linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. Genomic tests analyse a sample of a cancer tumour to see how active certain genes are. To learn more about genomic testing for breast cancer, visit www.breastcancer.org.