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Genetic tests for breast cancer

North Carolina women may be interested in a study that shows genetic testing is more accurate than traditional tests when determining the risk of early-stage breast cancer spreading. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Aug. 24.

European researchers analyzed the medical outcomes of 6,693 breast cancer patients and found women who opted out of chemotherapy when a DNA test showed a low risk of the cancer spreading had five-year survivor rates similar to women who chose to undergo chemo. Agendia, the Amsterdam company that makes the genetic test, believes the study is groundbreaking and "could change clinical practice." It is estimated that around 35,000 U.S. women with early-stage breast cancer could avoid the ordeal of chemotherapy each year if the test was widely adopted.

However, some oncologists are not convinced eliminating chemotherapy is wise, noting the study found low-risk woman who chose chemotherapy had a 1.9 percentage point greater chance of surviving five years than those who opted out. Other critics noted the study has only followed the participating women for five years, and no one yet knows what their outcomes will be in 10 or 15 years. The researchers are continuing the study to determine long-term outcomes.

A delayed diagnosis of breast cancer is often likely to result in a worsened medical condition. Women who have been harmed as a result may want to meet with an attorney to see what recourse they have for seeking compensation for the medical expenses and other losses that have been incurred.

Source: STAT, "When DNA and medical tests disagree about breast cancer risk, which to believe?," Sharon Begley, Aug. 24, 2016

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