Most in the medical field would agree: early detection of breast cancer saves lives. But how do doctors really know which treatments will be best to prevent the return of your cancer?
The Oncotype DX is a diagnostic test that helps your oncologist determine which treatment plan will most effectively prevent your cancer from returning (recurrence) or help to control your disease.
In order to be considered for this test, patients must have a diagnosis of estrogen-receptor positive (ER+), or estrogen-fueled breast cancer, be Stage 1 or Stage 2 and have no lymph nodes with cancerous cells, information that isn’t available until your lump has been biopsied.
When I went through breast cancer in 2004, I wasn’t offered the Oncotype DX test, perhaps because I was PR+, not ER+. Or perhaps it wasn’t available then, I haven’t had any luck finding out when the testing first became available.
What is the Oncotype DX?
The Oncotype DX test examines samples of tissue from your tumor and rates it for a specific set of genes that can influence the likelihood of recurrence within 10 years after your original diagnosis. The result of the test is reported as a number between 0 and 100, known as the Recurrence Score® result.
The Recurrence Score
All of these test results make it easier for your oncologist to provide you with a diagnosis, but the genetic information (along with all of the other diagnostics) gives a clearer picture of whether or not your particular tumor will respond to chemotherapy to prevent any recurrence.
Your recurrence score will be based on the genetic expression of 21 genes, 16 of which are cancer-related, and 5 of which are reference genes. The genes are grouped by function: proliferation, invasion, hormone receptors (estrogen and progesterone), and growth factors. Each person’s test results will be unique, but will fall into one of three categories – low risk, intermediate risk, and high risk.
Those who have a low risk of recurrence may not need any chemotherapy and may be able to take hormone therapy as follow-up treatment after surgery. Those in the intermediate to high-risk categories may need chemotherapy as well as hormone therapy to further reduce a risk of recurrence. There are many other factors such as age, tumor grade, hormone receptor status, etc. that will be considered by your oncologist before a treatment plan will be put together, but research has shown that results from the Oncotype DX test are a very strong predictor for recurrence.
The Controversial Part
Medicare and several private health insurance companies will help cover the cost of an Oncotype DX test. Check with your insurance provider to find out if you are covered for this test. The current list price for the Oncotype DX is $4175.00 and it’s done by one company, Genomic Health.
This upsets me (and a whole host of others, let me tell you!). There is no way that test should be so expensive. It’s like holding us hostage – pay up or you aren’t going to know exactly which therapies you should be given. It’s absolutely disgusting. I invite your comments below.
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Cancer and Caregiving: How to Cope
Written by Guest Author: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for the Mesothelioma Center.
A terminal cancer diagnosis can be tough to cope with, but sometimes, patients and their families have a harder time coping with the realities of the disease.
For many patients, cancer symptoms make it difficult to maintain the standard of life they enjoyed before their diagnosis. This is especially common in patients with aggressive, highly symptomatic cancers such as mesothelioma, whose complications make it difficult to handle daily chores. For these patients, it may be best to reach out to a caregiver for help with daily activities.
This can be extremely difficult to cope with – especially for patients who are used to a high level of independence. Coping can also be difficult for caregivers who have to balance their new responsibilities with their existing jobs and personal lives. However, despite the challenges, cancer patients and caregivers can smoothly transition to their new roles with the help of healthy coping mechanisms.
If You are Providing the Care:
Caregivers often fall into a trap of spending so much time taking care of their loved one that they forget to take care of themselves. Even though this may seem well-intentioned, it ultimately makes things harder on the caregiver.
If you are becoming a caregiver, make it a priority to stay involved with your favorite activities. Even though you will have less free time, it is crucial not to ignore your own need for recreation and stress relief.
Support groups are also helpful for new caregivers who are coping with stress, fear and anxiety about their loved one’s condition. They remind caregivers that it is perfectly normal to experience negative emotions and that they should not be ignored. The groups also help connect caregivers with others in the same position.
If You are Receiving the Care:
Asking for help is hard. It may feel like a blow to your pride – but in the end, it will help things go much smoother. Don’t hesitate to ask for help with the tasks that put you in physical pain to complete.
Some of the responsibilities you may wish to ask for help with include:
Remember that your caregiver may feel overwhelmed if you present them with a laundry list of responsibilities. Consider asking several friends to share the duties.
Be gentle with yourself along the way. Just because you require extra care does not mean you are completely losing your independence. Look for activities in your community that you can stay involved in. Gentle yoga classes and walking groups are two opportunities to stay connected while actually managing some of your cancer symptoms!
Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for the Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is living with cancer.
My greatest hope with this breast cancer website is that you will be informed, empowered, inspired and supported during your healing journey. Whether you have a new breast cancer diagnosis or whether you are just looking to decrease your chances of getting it, let me know how I can best help you!
I have some great resources available here for you. Cruise on down the categories on the right-hand side of the page to find an answer to your burning question. My focus is to unite conventional medicine and complementary medicine. My passion is to share with you everything I’ve learned during my journey with breast cancer – information on ways to prevent breast cancer, newsworthy items, anything and everything to do with breast cancer and healing from it.
I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Questions? You can contact me and ask anything you like. If I don’t have the answer, I can direct you to someone who will. Blessings!