Short cuts

Landmark study finds many women with early breast cancer can skip chemotherapy

A breast cancer patient undergoing treatment massages her head with oil to prevent dry skin. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

A major study has found that in women with early-stage breast cancer, a gene-activity test that determines receptivity to hormone-blocking drugs is accurate enough that adding chemotherapy to treatment for these women would do more harm than good. Women who skipped chemo based on the test had a 1 percent likelihood of having cancer recur within the following five years.

The study involved the most common type of breast cancer: early-stage, hormone-positive. More than 100,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with this kind of cancer each year. Usually treatment consists of surgery followed by years of a hormone-blocking drug, but many women also undergo chemo in order to kill stray cancer cells that could seed a recurrence later. Doctors have known that most of these women didn’t need chemo, but there had been no way to identify which women exactly didn’t need it. Thanks to a simple genetic test, these women can now be spared the ordeal of unnecessary chemotherapy.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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