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No chemo? Triangle doctors excited by new findings for breast cancer patients

Many breast cancer patients may be able to skip the chemotherapy process according to a new study of 10,000 women.

Allen Mask, M D, WRAL, Jun 5, 2018

The study affects many women who have the most common type of early-stage breast cancer, according to WRAL's Dr. Allen Mask.

UNC Rex oncologist Dr. Susan Moore was one of the many physicians involved in the Taylor RX Clinical Trial, which included about 16 local patients through UNC Rex healthcare. Moore said the "OncoType DX" test has long been used to spare many women with "low risk" scores from chemotherapy treatments.

"We also know that the chemotherapy doesn't add much at all to these low-risk women - their outcomes are good," said Moore. "This clinical trial is looking at women who have slightly higher risk scores -- technically considered to be in the intermediate risk range."

Moore said the study results will help her and other physicians expand the number of patients who can be spared chemotherapy. Women deemed at intermediate risk may be considered for it, but on a patient-to-patient basis.

Doctors say avoiding chemotherapy can spare women the high costs and side effects of the regimen.

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"It does tend to cause significant side effects such as fatigue and hair loss issues that really do trouble women," said Moore. "And there are some long-term potential risks as well of leukemia and cardiac issues."

Moore says the study results are more clear for most women over 50 years of age.

"For women over 50, we can feel quite confident that using the data in this trial to prevent the use of chemotherapy for women with those scores. But for women under 50, it's still important to discuss the pros and cons with your individual physician," she said.

The results of the trial suggest that up to 85 percent of women with early breast cancer can be spared chemotherapy -- especially those over 50 years of age.

Women concerned about their own risk of breast cancer recurrence should speak to their personal physician.

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