The latest breast cancer research findings should lead to revolutionary new thinking on patients’ treatment. It’s important that Indian oncologists keep abreast of what the research determines. “Most women with the most common form of early-stage breast cancer can safely skip chemotherapy without hurting their chance of beating the disease” is the study’s surprising conclusion. This turns on its head current standards of treatment, which invariably include radiation and chemotherapy. They may be life-saving treatments, but they are toxic, and may not really benefit cancer sufferers.
These findings apply to around 60,000 women annually in the United States. They do come with the rider that younger cancer patients may need chemo after all. But in India, where the incidence of breast cancer is far higher among women (it’s ranked the number one cancer among Indian females with the age-adjusted rate as high as 25.8 per one lakh women, and a mortality rate of 12.7 per one lakh women), it’s vital that doctors treating the disease become aware that cancer care has been steadily moving away from chemo and older drugs with drastic side effects. Modern oncology lays much greater store in gene-targeting therapies, hormone blockers and immune system treatments. It may not be easy for a sufferer not to follow medical advice on chemo, but in light of the new research, patients would do well to take in a few opinions before undergoing chemo.