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YOUR HEALTH: New study says chemotherapy may not be needed for many breast cancer patients

MIAMI, Florida – Years ago, women who were diagnosed with breast cancer knew they would almost certainly face radiation or chemotherapy, or a combination of both.

Now, doctors say up to 70% of patients may not need to undergo chemotherapy as part of their treatment depending on their tumor score.

For Nora Delgado it's family first, then her yoga practice.

"We go there not for our body, we go for our mind, it really transforms you from within."

But when Nora was diagnosed with breast cancer, it turned her world upside down.

"In America, we diagnose 250,000 women with breast cancer every year," explained Dr. Alejandra Perez, Medical Oncologist with the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

DIAGNOSING:   If a lump is found in the breast then doctors would administer a series of tests.   A breast exam is used to check for lumps or other symptoms of breast cancer.   The most common test for diagnosing breast cancer is a mammogram, which is an X-ray of the breast.   Other tests include biopsy, MRI or ultrasound. If something is found in the initial tests, then doctors proceed to give blood tests, a bone scan, a CT scan or a PET scan in order to stage the cancer.

Now there's some good news for the thousands of women battling this disease thanks to the Tailor-X trial.

Dr. Perez says the study enrolled 10,000 women with early stage breast cancer.

"They're hormone receptor positive and HER2-negative and they have no lymph node involvement," said Dr. Perez.

The patients' tumors were tested with the Oncotype DX test to determine the chance of recurrence.

"Based on that recurrence score you are assigned into a low risk category, an intermediate group, or high risk," said Dr. Perez.

The patients that scored in the middle were split into two groups.

"One got hormonal therapy with chemotherapy and the other just got hormonal therapy."

What they found was remarkable.

"If you look at overall survival it was 98% for both groups," explained Dr. Perez.   "That means 70% of women, we can avoid chemotherapy."

Nora's score revealed she didn't need chemo.

"I was very, very lucky, I won the lottery on that day," she said.

She chose to have a double mastectomy and is now on hormone therapy for five years.

"I'm really grateful, happy, content."

Finding peace in her life once again.

Dr. Perez says this doesn't apply to all breast cancer patients.

She says pre-menopausal women who scored in the middle may benefit from chemotherapy.

As always, discuss treatment options with your doctor.

To learn more about the Oncotype DX test and the results of the tailor-x study please visit the National Cancer Institute.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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