More and more women with a breast cancer diagnosis are advised to have their biopsied tumor tissue analyzed through genomic tests such as Oncotype DX or Mammaprint. In contrast to genetic testing that analyzes a single gene and its role in transmitting certain traits or conditions from parent to child, genomic testing studies all genes and their interrelationships to figure out their combined effect on living beings. When dealing with breast cancer, what is the purpose of these tests and can we be sure that the results are accurate when it comes to making therapeutic decisions? The intrinsic goal of genomic testing is to see if there is a better way to understand a patient’s personal breast cancer physiology (structure) and how it will react to treatment, compared to the traditional pathology report which lumps all similar subtypes together. If we can confidently assess the risk of future recurrence based on a woman’s specific, individual tissue, we can decide if the side effects, toxicity and expense of chemotherapy are worth taking on.
To ensure maximum support and comprehension of what is at issue, consulting your health care provider before deciding to get tested is vitally important. No test is 100% foolproof but with a doctor’s guidance, genomic test results can be a useful tool to help steer treatment choices.