RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – When you’re sick, you do your best to follow the doctor’s orders to get well. When your illness is breast cancer, doctor’s orders often include chemotherapy.
But many women don’t want to experience the harsh side effects like nausea and hair loss. Doctors are testing a new tool that can tell you whether you can beat breast cancer without the toxic treatment. Dr. Tomoko Connolly beat breast cancer with a treatment plan tailor-made for her.
She says her 2009 diagnosis turned her world upside down.
Connolly says no one in her family had breast cancer and she never thought me. She says she did everything right.
She says wanted to do everything right to live, but was afraid of what her treatment might involve.
Initially she says she thought oh my God radiation. Oh my God chemotherapy.
Connolly was most worried about the side effects from chemo.
Her doctor suggested using a test called Oncotype DX to find out if she even needed it.
VCU Massey Cancer Center Surgeon Dr. Harry Bear says this is part of the wave of the future.
Dr. Bear says Oncotype DX allows your doctor to design a personal treatment plan based on the genetic makeup of your cancer.
It answers two questions for you and your doctor: One, what is the likelihood of a reoccurrence? And two, will your tumor respond to chemotherapy?
Dr. Bear says it reduces the number of people who are exposed to chemotherapy unnecessarily or may convince patients who are hesitant to go ahead and take it.
Connolly took the test which revealed she could be cured without chemotherapy.
She only needed a lumpectomy and radiation.
This test gave me a tool to fight and it is my own weapon to fight and it was very useful for me. The Massey Cancer Center has been using the test for the past five years.
Doctor Bear says a national clinical trial they just completed and one going on in Europe right now could tell them if this test will be as useful as they think it can be.