Patients diagnosed with early breast cancer may find their treatment options a bit broader than others. To ensure proper intervention, however, many doctors are now advising their patients to undergo genetic testing. When this type of testing is performed, women and their healthcare providers gain much greater insights about what treatments are most likely to provide the strongest outcomes. One such test receiving high praise as of late is the 21-gene Recurrence Score assay.
Also known as the RS assay, this test is performed on samples from the breast tumor itself. It is recommended for women diagnosed with stage I or II breast cancer that is estrogen receptor positive. Generally, the test is only recommended in cases where cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
The RS assay is especially helpful in assisting women and their doctors in determining if chemotherapy should follow surgery. Depending on the genetic makeup of the cancer, chemo may or may not be advised. The genes included in the test can help clinicians better gauge the likelihood cancer will return and if radiation is likely to provide a benefit.
Recent studies into the use of the RS assay have shown some very positive impacts, but not all the news is good. Researchers found that this assay has been shown to be very helpful in reducing the use of chemo when it is not strictly called for. The same study, however, also concluded that differences exist in the use of the test and the ultimate decision to offer chemo based on such factors as insurance, race and the type of facility where treatment is offered.
Genetic testing, such as the RS assay, can help doctors gain a clearer picture about the nature of an individual patient’s cancer. In doing so, these tests can guide the decision-making process by offering insights into the steps that may or may not be necessary to help produce positive outcomes. Older women, minority women and those with substandard insurance can all benefit from the RS assay if their cancer fits the criteria. Not all, however, are being offered this option.
Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are urged to talk with their healthcare providers about all treatment options. Genetic testing should also be considered as a viable way to gain information to better help in the treatment decision-making process. The best advice in a woman’s specific case will come from a healthcare provider with first-hand knowledge about a patient’s particulars.
Choice Cancer Care is an independent, physician-owned cancer center network. Dr. Gregory Echt, a radiation oncologist with over two decades of experience, is the founder of Choice Cancer Care. Choice Cancer Care is among the busiest practices in the country for brachytherapy, or prostate seed implant therapy – a cancer treatment plan for prostate cancer that provides remarkable success rates and fewer life-limiting side effects.