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'Practice changer:' New study shows many breast cancer patients can skip chemo

A new study finds that chemotherapy might not be effective for some breast cancer patients. (WCIV)

A new study says some women with a common type of breast cancer can skip chemotherapy.

The new findings could benefit women in the early stages of the disease. The information comes after the American Society of Clinical Oncology released its study's findings on Sunday at a conference.

The study used a genetic test to assess cancer risk and found chemotherapy did not add any benefit in survival rates or reoccurrence for most women.

Dr. Ashley Jeter, a medical oncologist at Charleston Cancer Center, calls the study's findings a "practice changer."

She said the study fills in the gap for patients who do not fall in the low-risk or high-risk categories.

"There is an intermediate risk group that we never really knew how to address and sometimes younger women or larger tumors would make our anxiety about not offering chemotherapy be a factor in the conversation," said Jeter. "We didn't have a lot of data to help us decide or help us determine what to do in that situation and now the results do show there's no benefit to chemotherapy for this group of women."

Researchers followed some 6,700 women in the intermediate risk group over the course of nine years.

They found the overall survival rate was nearly the same for those who had hormone therapy alone and those who had both hormone and chemotherapy.

Despite new data, Jeter said treatment is still far from cut and dry.

"There's always going to be an art to medicine rather than you fit this protocol exactly and this is the pathway," Jeter said. "I think the biggest thing that it means is we're constantly pursuing new information to improve treatment for (patients), offering more tailored treatment, less toxic treatment and avoiding unnecessary treatment."

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