A breast cancer diagnosis is overwhelming and can leave your head spinning. If you’re dealing with breast cancer, especially if you’ve recently been diagnosed, it's easy to get confused by all of the terms your healthcare team uses. However, it’s essential that you understand these terms so that you can play an informed, active role in your care.
While most people are familiar with many basic terms, like mammograms and imaging, you’ll likely hear other references to treatments and tests that are not as recognizable. Keep reading to learn more about terms used involving the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer and new groundbreaking data.
Oncotype Scores vs. MammaPrint vs. BluePrint
Several tests are available to determine a treatment plan and the likelihood of recurrence. They differ based on age and other factors, including cancer stage.
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor may recommend the Oncotype DX test. Depending on your cancer type, this test can tell doctors if the cancer is likely to return at some point.
The Oncotype DX analyzes a cancer tumor sample to see the activity of specific genes and how likely it is to grow and spread. The test uses tissue taken during the initial biopsy or surgery. It measures 21 select breast cancer genes. (You might hear it called a "21-gene signature.") Your doctor might suggest the test if you have:
Stage I or II invasive breast cancer
Estrogen-receptor positive (called ER+) cancer, meaning the disease's cells grow in response to the hormone estrogen
Cancer that isn’t in the lymph nodes
The test uses a ‘numerical recurrence score’ (1 to 100) that divides tumors into three categories: low, intermediate, or high risk of recurrence.
The MammaPrint test is a genomic test that analyzes the activity of specific genes in early-stage breast cancer. Genomic tests analyze a cancer tumor sample to see how active particular genes are, determining how likely it is to grow and spread. These tests help doctors make decisions about whether more treatments after surgery would be beneficial.
While their names sound similar, genomic testing and genetic testing are very different. Genetic testing is done using blood, saliva, or other tissue samples and can tell if you have an abnormal change (also called a mutation) in a gene linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.
The MammaPrint test can only be used to analyze early-stage breast cancers. For example, the test can be used on cancers that are:
Stage I or stage II
Smaller than 5 centimeters
In three or fewer lymph nodes
Hormone-receptor-positive (estrogen/ progesterone) and hormone-receptor-negative
The MammaPrint test can be performed on a sample of preserved tissue that your doctor removed during the original biopsy or surgery.
BluePrint is a test used to predict tumor behavior in breast cancer. The test analyzes the activity of 80 genes to classify the tumors into three types:
Luminal: This type of tumor is responsive to hormonal (Example: anti-estrogen) therapy
HER2: This type of tumor multiplies rapidly, may recur, and can be treated with anti-HER2 therapies
Basel: This type of tumor grows quickly and does not respond to hormonal or anti-HER2 therapies
MammaPrint and BluePrint tests are run simultaneously on the same tumor tissue sample to provide results in ten days. It’s the only FDA-cleared test that is designed for people of all ages who:
Are newly diagnosed with invasive early-stage breast cancer (Stage I or II)
Have a tumor size up to 5 cm
Are either lymph node-negative or have 1-3 positive lymph nodes
Genomic Testing and Precision Medicine
Genomic tests analyze a cancer tumor sample to determine certain genes’ activity. The genes analyzed are called biomarkers. For breast cancer, the genomic tests are used mainly to analyze early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive (estrogen +/- progesterone), HER2-negative breast cancer to predict the risk of recurrence — cancer coming back — usually within five to ten years following the initial diagnosis.
Precision medicine — also called individualized or personalized medicine — is an approach to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, taking into account a person’s genetic makeup. For example, the goal of precision medicine for breast cancer is to tailor treatment to your genetic makeup and the genetic changes in your cancer cells.
Groundbreaking News on Cancer Research
The world’s leading oncology researchers gathered at the 2022 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting. There, they presented leading-edge research and tackled disparities in breast cancer, including the following five highlights:
Improved Overall Survival Rates for Advanced Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
A recent study showed that the addition of pembrolizumab to chemotherapy significantly improved the overall survival rates among patients with advanced triple-negative breast cancer tumors with a clinical and pathologic stage (CPS) score of 10 or more.
Improved Survival in Women With Hormone-Positive, HER2-Negative Advanced Breast Cancer
Another study has shown a significant benefit with adding ribociclib to letrozole as the first-line treatment in postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative advanced breast cancer.
Strides Are Being Made in the Treatment of Brain Metastases From Breast Cancer
Promising study results show that new drugs for HER2-positive breast cancer can overcome some obstacles that have made brain metastases challenging to treat.
Chemicals Used in Personal Care Products May Increase Breast Cancer Risk in Black Women
Study findings show that chemical compounds called parabens, widely found in hair and personal care products, may increase breast cancer risk in Black women more than in White women.
The Risk of Disease Progression Significantly Reduced for Hormone Receptor-Positive and HER2-Negative Advanced Breast Cancer
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