Breast Cancer's Crystal Ball

FRESNO, Calif.

When Carol Berlin was diagnosed with breast cancer in her left breast, her doctor gave her advice.

"He said, 'well my opinion would be to have a double mastectomy,' and I was like, 'a double mastectomy?' I was a little stunned," Berlin told Ivanhoe.

She's glad she listened. During the surgery, doctors also found cancer in her right breast. Her next worry: will it come back? Doctor Paul Baron says two new tests help answer that question and tell patients if chemo will help.

"A few years back, virtually every patient who had a cancer that was a centimeter or bigger was getting chemotherapy, but you only really helped 3 percent of those patients," Paul Baron, M.D., surgical oncologist at Roper St. Francis Hospital in Charleston, SC, said.

Mammaprint looks at 70 different genes to predict how aggressive it is.

"It's very accurate in predicting those patients that have a high recurrence risk and those that have a low recurrence risk," Dr. Baron explained.

Another test -- Oncotype DX -- looks at 21 genes. It gives patients a risk percentage and tells them if chemo will improve their odds.

It helped Berlin make a crucial decision: chemo or no chemo?

"The one thing that I was afraid of was chemotherapy, of just not seeing, living my life," Berlin added.

Her recurrence risk was 12 percent. Chemo would not help much, if at all.

"Everything really just turned out great," Berlin concluded.

Berlin's in remission now and grateful she got here using treatment designed just for her. Like Berlin, many patients have been able to forgo chemotherapy after getting their test results. Mammaprint is FDA cleared. The Oncotype DX test can only be used on estrogen-receptor positive cancers. There is also an Oncotype DX test for colon cancer.

If you would like more information, please contact: Roper St. Francis Healthcare Physician Referral Line Charleston, SC (800) 863-2273

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