Like any recently married woman in her early thirties, Alpana was looking to start a family. The world came crashing down on her and her family when she was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Regular course of treatment would have taken 1 year of chemotherapy along with 5 years of hormonal therapy. During this period, Alpana would not have been able to conceive.
As a ray of hope, her treating Doctor informed her that the tumour was small which meant that she could manage it along with her pregnancy. The doctor also explained to her the option of fertility preservation if chemotherapy or hormone therapy are to be given to her as part of regular treatment. However, that would mean that she had to wait for another 5-6 years to conceive. Considering that she was already in her 30s, it was a difficult decision for Alpana. This is when her doctor suggested doing prognostication of the disease to plan the next course of treatment.
CanAssist Breast test was performed on Alpana’s tumor sample and the tumor was classified as ‘low-risk’ for cancer recurrence. What did this mean to Alpana? It meant that she could skip chemotherapy and take a year to conceive and deliver a baby, after which hormone therapy can be started for 5 years. Alpana did exactly that and delivered a healthy baby. It’s been 5 years since diagnosis, she enjoys being a doting mother to her child. She is currently doing well and has shown promising progress on hormonal therapy. CanAssist Breast was a life changing decision for Alpana and her family. We at OncoStem are exceedingly happy that we could help Alpana and family in our small way!
I Had Cancer, But Cancer NEVER had ME
I am Amoga. I still remember it was 2016 when I the lump was identified as cancerous growth, without any further delay I consulted the doctor. I underwent the screening & the report came as the CANCER. Yes, it was hard to digest but time was of essence.
Blurry Dreams & a Tint of Hope
A lot of thoughts clogged my mind regarding the dreaded chemotherapy. What is Chemotherapy??? Is it a really painful ??? Do I lose my hair??? In my early 40’s will I be able to take Chemotherapy??
With all these thoughts I consulted my doctor and the best thing was he suggested us to go for “CanAssist Breast” (CAB) test before opting for chemotherapy. That’s when a tint of hope entered my mind. Our doctor explained in detail about the CAB test & the risk factors. Without thinking further, we sent our FFPE blocks and reports to Bangalore Lab. We received the CAB report within 10 working days and consulted the doctor again with the CAB test report.
Leading a New Life – The wish for healing has always been half of health
CAB report mentioned that my cancer was not very aggressive and I may not benefit from taking chemotherapy. Reading the report, my doctor suggested me not to go for Chemotherapy & recommended to start with Hormone Therapy. I was relaxed hearing this & opted for Hormone therapy with regular follow-ups.
I have come through this journey strongly thinking when the sun goes down, the stars come out. It’s been 5years now being cancer-free without Chemotherapy. I would highly recommend other breast cancer patients to discuss with their clinicians and go for the CAB test.
There is a CAN in CANCER. B’coz we can beat it.
If I look back 5 years journey as a cancer survivor in my 40s, I think I am very thankful that my clinician talked to me about prognostic tests like CanAssist Breast. I was able to fight cancer without chemotherapy, thanks to CanAssist Breast test gave me a HOPE & HOPE is to live with courage & Confidence, Not Fear.
With the rising number of breast cancer cases in rural and urban India, there is an increased discussion and awareness about the disease. However, discussions about treatments are just one side of early-stage breast cancer. Psycho-social distress, work-illness management, gathering knowledge, family support, and other such
personal factors need attention, too. Those with early-stage breast cancer should know a few basic things before they begin their breast cancer treatment.
Here are 5 things every early-stage breast cancer patient should know:
1. Breast cancer brings with it the need for psycho-social care
The news of breast cancer diagnosis brings emotions and distress in the lives of the patients and their family members. Fear, anxiety, panic, and stress are among the common types of psychological effects that come with breast cancer. It includes cognitive, social, and functional problems. The levels of distress vary from patient to patient and family-to-family based on the disease and the treatment. As early-stage breast cancers are highly likely to be cured with ease, patients and family members should know that their distress would reduce gradually.
They may need the following care and help :
• Help in coping with depression, fear, and anxiety about the recurrence or progression.
• Help and support from family members, spouses, and relatives to understand them better.
2. Know your breast cancer – weigh the treatment options
All breast cancers are not the same, even at the early-stage. Stages 1 and 2 are categorized as early-stage. At this stage, the tumor is small, which means that it hasn’t spread to other parts of the body. Depending on the breast cancer type and the tumor grade, the oncologists will decide the treatment.
Years of scientific advances, technology, machine learning, therapeutics, and studies focused on cancer have come together to make personalized treatments for breast cancer possible. Oncologists are now studying the biology of patients’ tumor to decide the ideal cure. Patients with early-stage breast cancer need to know that the possibilities of personalized treatments to cure their cancer are positive.
Knowing your breast cancer in detail is essential because it can help you play an active part in deciding your treatment.
3. Managing professional life
The news about breast cancer can have adverse effects on a person’s professional life. Apart from managing and planning treatment, a woman has to decide whether to continue or quit working during her treatment. A decision to not work might leave the patient stressed about the expenses related to her treatment and the fear of losing the job if the employer is not supportive.
A woman with early-stage breast cancer has several factors to deal when it comes to work. Some patients might experience biases. Employers might not assign important jobs or projects to patients due to uncertainty or lack of confidence in the patient’s ability. Co-workers might start treating patients differently- with more care and support or the opposite. Patients have to deal with these changes at the workplace with a lot of care and maturity.
4. Early-stage breast cancer patients have high survival chances
In India, breast cancer cases have doubled over the past 25 years. Breast cancer accounts for around 8.2% of all cancers and the survival rate is still low at 66%, compared to 40% in the West. One of every two breast cancer patients in India doesn’t survive the disease. The reason: late detection.
As the stages advance, meaning an increase in the size of the tumor, its potential to spread in other parts of the body also increases. This affects patients’ chances of treatment and survival. If breast cancer involves the lymph nodes and/or if the tumor is larger, the chances of survival are lesser. If breast cancer is detected at an
early-stage, the chances of effective treatment are higher.
5. Support from family, friends, and gathering of information
It is important that families, friends, and spouses support breast cancer patients throughout their cancer journey. Physical, emotional, and mental support must be extended to the patient. The support of the family and the comfort of the patient are most important to deal with the situation in the best possible way. Every family and household will deal with it in a different way depending on the members and their needs. Here are some ways and things to do:
• Be patient
• Be open and have wholehearted conversations
• Read a lot about the patient’s condition to get a better understanding
• Research and explore all the possible treatments
• Let the patient know that you’re always there when needed
• Talk about financial help and how you will manage the expenses
• Help the patients deal with health insurance policies
• Be physically present when the patient needs help and support
• Talk about emotions and emotional needs of the patients
Knowing and understanding some of these basic and simple things about your breast cancer condition can help you to plan your treatment wisely.
Remember, early-stage breast cancer patients have a higher chance of eliminating the disease and living carefree.
Are you amongst the millions who associate breast cancer with fatality; a disease that is almost impossible to cure and one that definitely involves chemotherapy? Most people believe that cancer treatments and medicines have little benefit. However, a look into new findings and discoveries in the field of oncology is enough to change this common perception about breast cancer.
For years, doctors and oncologists have chosen chemotherapy and radiation as a post-surgical breast cancer treatment. The knowledge, willingness, and proactive approach of the oncologists’ and their involvement with the patient’s treatment play a vital role in breast cancer treatment.
The oncologist and the patient
The oncologist is not only responsible for the diagnosis but is also responsible for providing clarity and knowledge to the patient about their cancer. Most importantly, the oncologist is responsible for deciding and charting out the best treatment course for the patient. Discussions surrounding prognosis often require oncologists to be sensitive, honest, and encouraging.
The treatment to a particular breast cancer patient and the response to treatment is unique to each patient, and the oncologist must share relevant information with the patient. Apart from this, the oncologists are responsible for post-treatment follow-up to assess the effectiveness of the treatment.
Oncologists have to consider many factors when determining a patient’s treatment and one thing that is often difficult to decide is whether a patient should be given chemotherapy or not. Several factors are considered:
- The size of the breast cancer tumor
- The stage of breast cancer
- Whether cancer is only in the breast or has spread to other parts of the body
- The hormone-receptor status of the cancer
- Whether the cancer is triple-negative (estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative, and HER2-negative)
- The rate of cell growth
- If the cancer is likely to come back (recurrence)
- Factors such as the age, menopausal status, and general health of the patient.
According to an assessment by WHO, cancer cases in India will multiply over five times by 2025.
Most patients associate cancer with chemotherapy and one of their first set of questions include queries about chemotherapy: How many sessions of chemotherapy will be required, what are the side-effects, what are the costs involved, will chemotherapy benefit, and what exactly happens during chemotherapy? Among other common questions are: will cancer come back after the surgery? How aggressive is cancer and how fast is it spreading?
A large number of patients and their families aren’t aware of the alternative treatments for breast cancer that are available in the country today. Hence, it is the oncologist’s responsibility to introduce the patients to new treatment options so that the patients consider all the available options.
Oncologists and cancer clinics have to be updated with the latest research and findings in the field of medical research to be able to provide the best treatment to their patients.
Breast cancer trends and cure
In India, breast cancer cases are on the rise. There has been an increase in the number of discoveries, alternative cancer care options, and innovative personalized treatment options for breast cancer patients in India.
In the last five decades, breast cancer treatment has become the model for the development and success of tailored medical treatment.
Therapeutic approaches for breast cancer have changed over the past few decades, and the use of systemic therapy for early and advanced disease tailored to the individual patient holds the promise of delivering treatment to those in need and who could benefit the most. While we’re nowhere near where we should be or could be—in either preventing or treating cancer—science has led to evident progress in treating breast cancers of different kinds.
Advances in hormone therapy for hormone receptor-positive cancer
Some breast cancers are driven by natural hormones, estrogen and progesterone. These are referred to as hormone receptor-positive if they are estrogen receptor-positive (ER positive) and/or progesterone receptor-positive (PR positive). Hormone therapy for breast cancer is only used to treat cancers that are ER or PR positive.
Despite conventional hormone therapy, approximately 20–30% of patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer suffer recurrences and the development of metastatic disease as they experience a biochemical mechanism of resistance. Considerable progress has been made in this area, and newer therapeutic targets have been developed against a number of hormonal resistance mechanisms.
Are all patients with early breast cancer benefiting from chemotherapy? A number of experts and oncologists asked this question. Some delved deeper into it. With this question in mind, global investigators motivated by the development of new prognostic and predictive tests such as OncoStem’s CanAssist Breast. The test focuses on personalizing breast cancer treatment to avoid over treatment and under treatment.
Clinical research is currently evaluating new therapeutic approaches and is identifying specific biological subsets that could determine a patient’s ability to respond to a particular treatment.
Scientific, machine-learning precision – CanAssist Breast
Artificial intelligence and machine learning is an emerging approach to breast cancer. CanAssist Breast is the first such test developed in India, specifically for Indian patients. It determines the tumor’s fingerprint and assesses its aggressiveness. Assessing the tumor biology in detail, the test considers key biomarkers. Based on this combined analysis performed by proteomics based technology, the information is then assessed by a statistical algorithm that provides a score – whether the patient is at low or high risk for breast cancer recurrence.
The importance of medical research
The advent of new drugs targeting specific actionable targets has led to considerable progress in the treatment of breast cancer over the past few years. Yet, some challenges such as resistance to systemic therapy, the high cost of treatments, and limited availability in many parts of the country still remain.
Experts continue to find ways to improve the available technology to provide proper guidance for those living with breast cancer and for those at high risk of developing it.
The author of this blog, Dr.Jayanti Thumsi, has been a practicing breast oncologist for 16 years, has performed 3500 breast surgeries, and 2500 other surgeries. She is an expert in Breast conservation and Breast Reconstruction surgeries. With a keen interest in spreading breast cancer awareness among women, she has conducted 258 awareness programs and has educated 158000 women. She is also the founder trustee of the CREST Foundation working to decrease the burden of breast cancer. Her book, Lump to Laughter, highlights the emotional journey of women going through breast cancer treatment.