Half of women with early-stage breast cancer can avoid useless chemotherapy

40,000 fewer women will undergo chemotherapy for breast cancer with the implementation of a gene activity test.  [New York Times Aug 24, 2016]

The rate of survival was 94.7% over 5 years for those who underwent the gene test and passed up chemotherapy.  [New England Journal Medicine Aug 25, 2016]

Did it really take all this time and the availability of a gene test for oncologists to realize chemotherapy wasn’t working?

According to one recently published study, chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer ranges from $60,637 to $82, 121 in the year after diagnosis.  That’s $2.425 to $3.284  billion out of the pockets of doctors and hospitals.

The MammaPrint and Oncotype Dx gene tests cost ~$4000.  According to one study, ~80% of newly diagnosed breast cancers are early-stage (0-1).  So maybe 200,000 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer will undergo one of these gene tests @$4000 a pop.  That is $800 million of tests to prevent $2.4-$3.2 billion of chemotherapy.

Breast cancer is big business with nearly a quarter million women being diagnosed annually.  The fear associated with breast cancer breeds overtreatment that modern medicine is all too willing to provide.  Only about 3% of women diagnosed with breast cancer will die from this malignancy. [Cancer.org]  Only about 20-30% of breast cancers will spread, which is the deadly form of breast cancer. [MBCN.org] The 98.6% 5-year survival rate is misleading for non-invasive breast cancer because it makes it sound like treatment is responsible for that high figure.

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