Study: Not All Breast Cancers Require Chemotherapy

For the thousands of American women diagnosed with breast cancer each year, chemotherapy is almost a given. This extra dose of treatment following tumor removal can mean the difference between truly beating the cancer or facing a return of it a few years down the road. Researchers are finding, however, that not every breast cancer patient may in fact need chemotherapy.

The results of the TAILORx study were recently released, giving hope to women with certain early-stage breast cancers. Researchers found that women with a low risk for recurrence could technically skip chemo without experiencing a heightened risk for recurrence or spread by the five-year mark. The caveat, however, was the use of endocrine therapy in the cases that produced positive results. This therapy, often used in conjunction with chemo, worked well on its own in many low-risk patients.

To arrive at those findings, researchers looked at 10,253 women with hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer. The women had no indication of disease spread to the lymph nodes. About 15.9 percent of the women had a recurrence risk that was considered low. These women were given an aromatase inhibitor, tamoxifen, or a combination of the two for five years without chemo included in the mix. When all was said and done, women in the low-risk group had an invasive disease-free survival rate of 93.8 percent at the five-year mark. The overall freedom from recurrence at 5 years was 98.7 percent.

While more work needs to be done, the findings indicate that some women who are diagnosed with breast cancer may be able to avoid the use of chemotherapy all together. This could mean an easier, and still effective, course of treatment for thousands of women.

Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are urged to discuss all treatment options with their healthcare providers. While endocrine therapy may prove especially helpful in assisting low-risk women from having to experience chemo, many patients will find this course of treatment is still vital for saving their lives.

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