Pathology results showed that the cancer had broken out of Deborah’s milk ducts and had turned into invasive ductal carcinoma.
In April 2007, Deborah had a mammogram after skipping a few years. Additional mammograms and an ultrasound suggested that she might have breast cancer. A core needle biopsy revealed that she had ductal carcinoma in situ.
Deborah, then 53, met with a surgeon who ordered an MRI of her other breast to make sure there was no cancer there. She also did a separate biopsy to check for lymph node involvement and found none. Her surgeon informed Deborah that a mastectomy was her only surgical option, and that it should "cure" her cancer.
After her mastectomy, pathology results showed that the cancer had broken out of Deborah’s milk ducts and had turned into invasive ductal carcinoma. At this point, her surgeon said that Deborah would likely need to be on a five-year hormonal therapy and might also need radiation.
A panel of radiation oncologists recommended against radiation; they thought it might do more harm than good, because any cancer cells left after the mastectomy would be very close to Deborah’s chest wall, over her heart.
“The Oncotype DX assay and my Recurrence Score result really helped change everything.”
Deborah’s next step was to see an oncologist, who prescribed a five-year course of treatment with an "aromatase inhibitor"(a type of hormonal therapy). Realizing that she would need to see an oncologist often, Deborah found one closer to her home.
During their first appointment, the first thing the new oncologist asked Deborah was, "What are the results from your Oncotype DX assay?" Deborah hadn’t heard of the test, so her oncologist explained that it can help doctors assess whether women with certain types of breast cancer are likely to benefit from chemotherapy.
Deborah worked with her surgeon’s office to order the test. Her Recurrence Score result was a 33, meaning she had about a 22% chance of recurrence (on average, with a range of 17% to 27%). Her oncologist immediately began chemotherapy, telling Deborah that she should have started it weeks before.
"Looking back at my treatment decisions, it was a real rollercoaster," Deborah said. "I kept hearing I was going to be cured, which made me confident that I would be, but it turned out I was at a high risk of recurrence. The Oncotype DX assay and my Recurrence Score result really helped change everything."
Now 54, Deborah has completed chemotherapy and continues to take an aromatase inhibitor. To keep her strength up, she began working with a personal trainer soon after she was diagnosed and continues to train today. A professional painter of murals and decorative finishes before her diagnosis, Deborah now focuses on pet portraits. And speaking of pets, both Deborah and her husband Randy stay busy with their two standard poodles.
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