I am Meenakshi. I live in the buzzing city of Pune (India). I am 39 years right now and completely healthy. Let me take you back in time, the year 2016; My 36th birthday celebration was still on, both at home and hospital. I work as a part-time therapist in a non-profit hospital. All my patients gathered to celebrate my birthday, and this really touched me. At home, my husband and my 3-year-old boy had baked a not-so-good-looking, but love-filled cake. I was thrilled, and it was the best way I could turn 36.
The next morning, while in the shower, I felt a lump in my breast. I assumed I was imagining it and was worrying for no reason. I ignored it for a few days and continued with my daily commitments.
After a long day at work, I was getting ready to go to bed when I felt the lump again. Now, it was almost a week, and I could feel the lump every day. I decided to ask Dr. Sushma, the GP in the OPD at my hospital. Dr. Sushma hesitated a bit after checking me. This got me extremely anxious and worried. She said, “I am not too sure, I think you should get a scan done’’, I looked at her with a curious eye and asked, “You mean, it might be cancer?” She quickly gathered herself and shrugged, “I am not sure, I think it’s better to get a test done before concluding anything.”
I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. And, the only thing my oncologist told me, “Don’t be worried. You should be happy you got it checked so early. Early detection is really a plus. The cancer is at a stage when it can be treated, and you can be back to your regular normal life.”
I think this is what stuck to me the most. It’s a normal ailment that can be cured and I am going to work towards making that happen. This attitude of mine along with family support made me strong and we were ready to overcome everything that came our way.
A few weeks later, came the turning point of my life. The tumor was surgically removed. Dr. Priya, my oncologist suggested to take up CanAssist Breast test to find out the breast cancer recurrence risk before going ahead with the treatment.
CanAssist Breast provided additional information about my tumor. The test results helped us to identify the likelihood of cancer returning to a distant site after surgery. Luckily, I was under the low-risk recurrence zone and I was spared from chemotherapy and its side-effects. This timely action of mine not only saved the cost of treatment but also helped me in leading a quality life.
Today, being a breast cancer survivor, I thank OncoStem and Dr. Manjiri for helping me take the most important and timely decision of my life. The decision to take CanAssistBreast test helped me in personalizing my treatment and leading a normal life.
1. Precision treatments for breast cancer
Precision medicine or personalized therapies for breast cancer are those that are tailored to a specific patient to give the most effective treatment. It considers the genetic makeup or other markers in the cancer cells, blood, and tumor tissues and non-genetic factors such as lifestyle. From diagnosis, treatment to prevention and care, this approach includes the collection and analysis of blood or tumor tissue.
The advantages of precision medicine:
- Avoid unnecessary treatment
- The treatments involved in cancer such as radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and surgery could have side effects. With precision medicine, these side effects can be avoided.
- It makes it easier to identify and involve specific medical experts depending on the need of the patient as opposed to a general medical expert or oncologist.
2. AI and data analytics for breast cancer treatment
To tackle the numerous problems related to breast cancer such as late diagnosis, over-treatment, unaffordable treatments, and inaccessibility of treatment options, multiple companies have been researching and developing different solutions. Employing different technologies ranging from artificial intelligence and machine learning, the development of tech-based innovation for breast cancer has rapidly advanced in recent years.
For example, mammography is no longer the screening test that works for all. Tests such as digital breast tomosynthesis, whole-breast ultrasound, and AI-powered are more accessible, personalized, and affordable screening methods. Highly capable 3D mammography machines are simplifying early detection and breast cancer recurrence prediction tests and are helping patients to bypass chemotherapy altogether.
3. Tests that predict breast cancer recurrence
Breast cancer isn’t the same for each patient. There are different kinds of breast cancers, and they respond differently to different treatments. For example, oncologists are now planning treatments for patients based on their specific breast cancer conditions. These treatment decisions are based on whether they are HER2-positive, lymph node-positive, post or pre-menopausal, and other such factors.
Precision treatments are also based on the groups that different patients belong to, such as HER2-positive, lymph node-positive, post or pre-menopausal, and other such groups. Today, all women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer do not need chemotherapy. A few years ago, almost 95% of patients would definitely undergo chemotherapy as a measure to keep cancer away post-surgery.
OncoStem’s CanAssist Breast is a prognostic test that classifies the patients as ‘low-risk’ or ‘high-risk’ based on the patient’s breast cancer recurrence risk over five years.
Here’s how the test works:
- Once the tumor is removed by surgery, it is essential to determine if the patient has cancer recurrence chances.
- Upon taking the CanAssist Breast test, the diagnosis is considered in deciding the treatment plan for the patient. If the patient is categorized as low-risk, she can avoid chemotherapy.
- Apart from the test results, the oncologists consider other factors such as age, history, lifestyle, tumor size, and grade to plan the treatment.
4. The widespread reach of breast cancer screenings and treatments
Experts have noted peculiar observations in breast cancer occurrences in India. There is an increased incidence in younger age groups in rural and urban areas. With the number of breast cancer occurrences consistently on the rise, awareness about breast cancer recurrence risk is a must.
Up until a few years back, a large number of women in the rural areas suffered due to non-diagnostics and lack of facilities for cancer diagnosis and care in these regions. However, owing to the fact that the AI and tech-based screenings and treatments do not involve complex logistics or the need of physical examination, the availability of tests and medicines is penetrating deeper in rural and underserved regions, too.
These are some novel and innovative approaches in tests and treatments over the last few years:
Telemedicine: An unmanned telemedicine clinic where patients come face-to-face with medical experts from across the country. The process is carried out online that allows doctors and patients to see each other virtually.
Data analytics in medicine: A number of tests only require a small sample tissue from the cancer tumor to read, study, and access the cancer condition of the patients. These samples can be easily and safely couriered from any part of the country in just a few days enabling patients from unserved regions to access medical help.
India has the lowest doctor-patient ratio in the world. In such a scenario, these machine-based tests are helping reach a larger number of patients.
5. More affordable tests and treatments
For years, people have associated the word ‘cancer’ with being an expensive disease. Even though characterized as ‘low-cost’ by global standards, it still remains unaffordable for the majority of the population.
With new, advanced, improved, and innovative breast cancer treatments, the problem is being tackled by several cancer treatment institutes and startups. With continued research and development, startups are striving to make the tests even cheaper and affordable for a large segment of the population.
The need for the hour is to spread awareness about these options among patients and their loved ones.
Stay informed and spread the word!
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.
What comes to your mind when you think about breast cancer? It would most probably be ‘chemotherapy,’ ‘fear of a long process of treatment,’ ‘high costs,’ the fear of cancer coming back, and so on. These thoughts can be controlled with the right knowledge and right breast cancer treatments.
Researchers and oncologists have made new and promising forms of treatment for breast cancer. It’s time to personalize your treatment!
Our test classiﬁes patients as ‘low-risk’ or ‘high-risk’ based on the patient’s breast cancer recurrence risks over five years. The clear-cut test result provides doctors with additional information that can be used for treatment planning.
Plan the ideal treatment
CanAssist Breast is a test that helps to plan the ideal treatment by predicting the breast cancer recurrence risk within five years of surgery. The risk of recurrence is lesser in early-stage breast cancer (Stage 1 and Stage 2), and hence, it is important for doctors and the patients to plan out a suitable course of treatment based on the breast cancer recurrence risk score.
Until a few years back, oncologists and clinicians were deciding cancer treatments based on age, tumor size, node status, grade, ER, PR and HER2 status. OncoStem realized there was a gap in the decision-making paradigm and understanding the tumor biology to comprehend the cancer progression and its aggressiveness would significantly change treatments depending on an individual’s tumor biology.
Tests similar to CanAssist Breast have been based on genomic analysis, whereas CanAssist Breast involves proteomics analysis. The genomics method considers genes of interest in the genome of a cell, whereas CanAssist Breast’s proteomics technique studies the proteins of interest produced by the cell. A 5-year study by OncoStem Diagnostics, recently published online, explains the detailed analysis and results that lead to the test, CanAssist Breast.
Your tumor is different, just like you are, as an individual.
Doctors and oncologists have to know as much possible about your tumor for optimal and ideal treatment.
A way forward – scientific, machine-learning precision
Artificial intelligence and machine learning is an emerging approach in the healthcare sector including the treatment of breast cancer. CanAssist Breast is the first such test developed in India, specifically for Indian patients. It determines the tumor’s biochemical fingerprint and assesses its aggressiveness. Assessing the tumor biology in detail, the test considers five key biomarkers that are involved in recurrence-related pathways in the cell. Based on this combined analysis performed by proteomics-based technology, the information is then assessed by a statistical algorithm that provides a score between 0 and 100 – whether the patient is at low-risk or high-risk for cancer recurrence. A ‘CAB risk score’ less than 15.5 indicates a low-risk. Depending on each patient’s unique CAB risk score, the doctors can thus plan an ideal treatment tailored to an individual’s patient.
A decision that doctors and patients must make:
‘Fear’ is the most shared and challenging emotion that cancer brings with it. However, fearful a patient might be; it is essential for the patients to know and consider that their treatment can be different from that of the other patients.
Knowing who is eligible for the CanAssist-Breast test can help both patients and doctors.
The patients must meet the below criteria to take CanAssist Breast:
- Patients with early-stage, invasive breast cancer
- Patients with hormone receptor-positive (“ER+ and/or PR+”) and HER2- negative disease
- Lymph node-negative or up to 3 lymph node-positive
- Patients should not have gone through neo-adjuvant chemotherapy
In India alone, 150,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Of these, around 50 percent fall in the early-stage breast cancer category and a majority of them are eligible for this test.
Take your decision together
If you or someone among your friends or family are going through breast cancer (early-stage), you must consider taking CanAssist Breast before starting the treatment. If you are an oncologist or a doctor, maybe your patients could avoid the unnecessary treatments and the side effects most usually associated with chemotherapy.
Doctors must suggest the test to their eligible patients and patients must ask their doctors about the test score and personalize their treatment accordingly.
Want to know more about CanAssist Breast? Get in touch with us.