Joyce’s Recurrence Score result was a 24, indicating that she was at an intermediate risk for cancer recurrence.
When Joyce had a routine mammogram in 2006, everything seemed fine. Then the chief of radiology at her local hospital called her in for additional imaging. She was called back a second time for a surgical biopsy, which revealed that Joyce, at age 63, had breast cancer.
Although Joyce had been diagnosed at a smaller medical practice in the Boston area, her son-in-law, a California-based surgeon, advised her to take advantage of the resources available at the major teaching hospitals in Boston and referred her to a surgeon at one of the hospitals there for treatment.
A lumpectomy and removal of a sentinel lymph node revealed that Joyce had node-negative infiltrating ductal carcinoma.
After surgery, Joyce met with her oncologist to discuss the next step in her treatment. Her oncologist recommended radiation therapy and said that chemotherapy might also be needed. Joyce began researching breast cancer treatment and found that chemotherapy can affect the heart, bones and brain, as well as cause nausea and hair loss. "I really didn’t want to have it," she said. "Given my age and the type of cancer I had, it didn’t seem likely that I would benefit much from chemo."
“Given my age and the type of cancer I had, it didn’t seem likely that I would benefit much from chemo.”
She asked her oncologist if there was a test that could tell her whether chemotherapy would likely be beneficial, and her oncologist recommended—and ordered—the Oncotype DX assay. Joyce’s Recurrence Score result was a 24, indicating that she was at an intermediate risk for cancer recurrence. In patients with a Recurrence Score in the intermediate range, the benefit from chemotherapy is still being studied to determine how likely these patients are to respond to this treatment.
Joyce and her oncologist decided against chemotherapy. “My Recurrence Score result was one more piece of information that helped us make that decision,” she said. “You want to get as many facts together as you can.” Joyce had radiation therapy and is taking tamoxifen.
Now 65, Joyce is back to her normal life. She stays busy taking care of her young grandson. A former art teacher, she also works on prints and watercolors in her home studio. She stays active by participating in Jazzercise, and she and her husband enjoy traveling.
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