YOUR TUMOR’S FINGERPRINTS
You hear the words “you have breast cancer” and your mind is on overload as you are filled with anxiety and questions.
How big is it? What stage is it? Will I need chemo? Will I lose my hair? Will I lose my breasts? Will it come back after treatment? Who can I talk to that will understand any of this? I want to know more! Unlocking the answers to these and other questions was so critical for me when I was diagnosed, and I felt others would feel the same way. I wanted to empower myself with as much information about my tumor, my diagnosis, my prognosis, and my risk of recurrence. I was overwhelmed with anxiety and I just wanted to know everything about my walnut-sized tumor and what this all meant!
Let’s start at the beginning.
So, I wanted to know everything about my breast cancer, inside and out. What type of cancer is it? What made it grow? What stage is it? What grade is it? Does the size really matter? How aggressive is the tumor? How will my doctor determine treatment?
After your biopsy or surgery, your doctor will consider your clinical factors and rely on your pathology report to determine the best course of treatment. Your pathology report includes information such as your tumor size and grade, lymph node involvement, hormone receptor status, and cancer stage. Yes, it’s a lot of new terms to learn and understand but once you talk to your doctor about the personality of your tumor it will all start to make sense. Believe me, I felt I was learning a whole new language when I was first diagnosed, but everyone processes information differently and at their individual pace. So, about the tumor…
You are unique. So is your tumor.
Your tumor is so unique, it has its own set of “fingerprints.” Today, there are tests to help us understand the personality of our tumors called genomic assays. These tests analyze the activity of certain genes in early-stage breast cancer. This is what is known as ‘precision medicine.’ In other words, the tumor is dissected down to the microscopic level to see its unique characteristics, which is then translated into actionable information. This specific information helps your treatment team make medical decisions in your best interest. By gaining a deeper, molecular view of your cancer, your doctors will have a better idea on how your body is going to respond to different treatments. It will also allow them to provide you with the most accurate information about your diagnosis and risk of recurrence. To me, this was so important as I felt so overwhelmed with uncertainty.
“Every cancer has its own unique fingerprint which is determined by the presence or absence of certain proteins in the cancer cell. This information often guides what type of systemic treatment a breast cancer patient can benefit from. There are a number of different molecular profile tests available. If you have had breast cancer, ask your doctor for a copy of this report and read it front to back.”
– Dr. Barry Rosen, Senior Medical Advisor for Learn Look Locate
Who’s a candidate for genomic testing?
Genomic tests can be used on any early-stage patient, regardless of age or ethnicity, with up to 3+ lymph nodes, 5cm or less.
When you have a genomic test performed on your tumor, it will usually deliver one of three results:
- Genomic Low Risk: Low benefit to chemo outweighs the risk and long-term side effects
- Genomic High Risk: Chemotherapy will help reduce the risk of your cancer coming back
- Genomic Ultra Low Risk: Signifies that extended endocrine (hormone) therapy is needed
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had a deep discussion with my doctor, and we made the decision together to order genomic testing for me, and it proved instrumental in me getting the best treatment possible for my unique tumor.
How this can guide therapy.
Combining your tumor’s molecular information with other clinical factors like your cancer stage or tumor size, your doctors can help you decide on the most appropriate and effective therapy. Depending on your tumor’s characteristics, you may even discover that you don’t need radical treatments and thus avoid the risk of potential life-long side effects.
Genomic tests give your doctors the most accurate, comprehensive overview of your tumor’s behavior, so you can make better decisions throughout your journey to recovery. Ask your doctor which genomic test is best for you, so your team can get the information they need to provide you with the safest and most effective treatment for your unique tumor.