Elizabeth’s Recurrence Score result was 16, indicating that her recurrence risk was in a lower range.
In September 2005, Elizabeth, a jewelry designer and full-time mom, noticed a lump in her breast and thought it was probably a fibroid. When she went for a routine mammogram that month, Elizabeth told the technicians about the lump, but it did not appear on the films. A sonogram showed the lump as a solid mass. Elizabeth immediately underwent a biopsy, which revealed a 1.9-centimeter tumor.
Fortunately, the tumor was lymph node-negative (N-) and estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+), which meant it was contained—all positive for Elizabeth’s prognosis.
She underwent a lumpectomy, followed by radiation treatment. Her tumor was close to the breastbone, so to be safe, her surgeon removed 23 lymph nodes along with the tumor.
Next, Elizabeth began to search for an oncologist, visiting two oncologists who had come highly recommended. Given her status as pre-menopausal and the size of her ER+ N- tumor, both of them recommended chemotherapy followed by hormonal therapy—the standard treatment for this type of cancer.
“This was heartbreaking to me, to be hit with this at 40 years old with two young boys. I still wanted a third child,” said Elizabeth, now 42.
Elizabeth’s mother had been diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer at age 64 and was treated with a lumpectomy and radiation. Elizabeth had hoped that her treatment would be similar. After her diagnosis, Elizabeth researched doctors, treatment and support systems to find what would work for her. “It was like a full-time job,” she said.
“This was heartbreaking to me, to be hit with this at 40 years old with two young boys. I still wanted a third child.”
One morning, Elizabeth’s brother called to tell her about Oncotype DX, which he’d seen on a TV report. Elizabeth asked her surgeon about the test, and he determined that she was a candidate for the test and ordered it for her. None of the oncologists she had been to had told her about the test. “I found out about it from my brother, an investment manager at an investment bank—not the medical professionals I’d spent so much time seeking out,” she said.
Elizabeth’s Recurrence Score result was 16, indicating that her recurrence risk was in a lower range. Elizabeth made an appointment with an oncologist at a cancer center in New York to discuss her result. After the previous oncologists’ recommendations of chemotherapy and hormone therapy, Elizabeth was surprised to hear her new oncologist say that she didn’t think chemotherapy was necessary and was confident treating her with hormone therapy alone. Elizabeth’s Recurrence Score suggested that chemotherapy would provide minimal benefit.
Today, Elizabeth has completed radiation therapy and is continuing hormonal therapy. She is confident in her decision not to undergo chemotherapy, based on her Recurrence Score results. “What a great thing to be differentiated within this class of women with breast cancer,” she said. “Not all cancers are the same, so why treat everyone the same way with something so toxic? It’s so remarkable that finally, you can distinguish one person’s cancer from another—I’m just so thankful.”
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