As we all know, there are no specific reasons for the occurrence of breast cancer. Since, the past few years, oncologists and scientists are categorising cancer as a lifestyle disease like diabetes. While there are many known factors that cause cancer, the majority of patients diagnosed with cancer do not have any specific risk factor. A few known risk factors that can be associated with an increased risk of cancer are age, unhealthy habits, family history, etc… Cancer can occur to any gender at any age, not depending on ethnicity either.
In women, breast cancer has a higher occurrence and is a major cause of high mortality. One positive aspect about the response of breast cancer to treatment is, that it can be cured if detected early. With timely diagnosis, right treatment, and healthy living, early-stage breast cancer patients can live a normal and longer life post-cancer.
However, post-treatment, one needs to be aware of the risk of recurrence. Many patients have relapses post-surgery and present with either local or metastatic recurrence. This could happen due to various reasons. Post breast cancer surgery, patients undergo a series of treatment protocols varying from chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, etc… Though these treatments are aimed to kill the cancer cells present in the body completely, there are chances that a few malignant cells escape and stay in the body unaffected. These cancer cells may be dormant for years without causing harm but these cells can also get activated after a certain period and grow and spread to other parts of the body.
Hence the question to be asked here is, “Is there a way to find out the risk of breast cancer recurrence?”
The answer is, yes! For early-stage hormone positive breast cancer, prognostic tests can help predict the risk of recurrence and help in personalising the treatment thereby, avoiding over treatment. With the help of prognostic tests, many early-stage breast cancer patients can avoid chemotherapy.
Which are these tests? Is there a test that is validated on Indian patients?
Yes! CanAssist Breast is a prognostic test developed by OncoStem Diagnostics in India and is validated on Indian patients, unlike the western prognostic tests which are not validated on Indian patients.
How does CanAssist Breast prognostic test help in identifying probable recurrence and for how many years?
CanAssist Breast uses a proteomics – based method and a proprietary machine learning-based algorithm to analyze a patented combination of protein biomarkers from the patient’s tumor to compute the risk of recurrence of cancer. Based on a recent study, CanAssit Breast can also be used to predict 10 years’ risk of recurrence.
Read more about the test here: About CanAssist Breast Prognostic Test
The FFPE block containing the tumor tissue removed from the breast during the surgery is sent to OncoStem lab along with the Histopathology reports of the patient. Upon clearing all the requisite criteria (check the criteria here), CanAssit Breast test is performed on tumor tissue. The test takes 8-10 working days (the fastest test in this category) to derive a report which highlights if the patient is at low-risk or high-risk for recurrence of cancer. If the risk prediction score is below or equivalent to 15.5, then the patient can skip chemotherapy. If the risk prediction score is above 15.5, then the patient can benefit from chemotherapy.
Recurrence risk prediction is crucial post-surgery and can be very helpful for the patient as well as the treating clinician to plan the appropriate treatment based on individual patient’s tumor biology.
More about breast cancer recurrence:
The following factors increase the likelihood of breast cancer patients developing a recurrence:
- Involvement of lymph nodes. Lymph nodes located nearby when you were originally diagnosed with cancer increase the risk of recurrence.
- Tumor size is larger. The risk of recurrent breast cancer is higher in people with larger tumors.
- Lack of radiation treatment following a lumpectomy. Most patients undergo radiation therapy post lumpectomy (removal of tumor form breast). The chance of recurrence is high in patients who skip radiation therapy or delay the treatment.
- Younger age. If the age is below 35 at the time of diagnosis, the chance of recurrence is high for breast cancer.
- Inflammatory breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is a type of breast cancer where the risk of recurrence is high.
- Cancer cells with certain characteristics. Patients with Triple negative breast cancer tends to have recurrence.
- People with higher body mass index (BMI) have higher chances of recurrence.
Here are a few steps involved to prevent breast cancer recurrence:
- Post-surgery treatment. Post-surgery patients may have to undergo various therapies like hormone therapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy. Timely treatment can prevent breast cancer recurrence.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. As obesity is a key risk factor for recurrence, maintaining a healthy weight can prevent recurrence.
- Physically active. Being physically active post treatment can also benefit at large to prevent recurrence.
- Healthy diet. Including lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains in the diet and limiting intake of alcohol can also help in preventing recurrence.