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Study: 70% of breast cancer patients might not need chemotherapy

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A genetic test is giving hope to thousands of women across the country diagnosed in the early stages of breast cancer.{ } (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - A genetic test is giving hope to thousands of women across the country diagnosed in the early stages of breast cancer.

Women like Cam Russell who had surgery in January.

“After the surgery, I learned that I did not have to have radiation or chemo, which allowed me to concentrate and relax and know that I’m going to be a vital, healthy woman," said Russell.

More women could soon have a similar story to Russell.

New research was released at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Conference in Chicago and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study says women can avoid the harsh effects of chemotherapy.

“Chemotherapy is tough on patients. Chemotherapy can cause patients to lose their hair, cause their blood counts to get very low and can make them feel really tired and sick,” said Kevin Cheung, a physician scientist with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

The study gave a genetic test to over 10,000 women and used the results to guide their treatment.

After nine years, 94 percent of women at risk were still alive and 84 percent of them showed no signs of cancer.

“Gene test is powerful because it allows us to use a woman’s own body in terms of her tumor to understand what’s unique about the disease,” Cheung said.

When chemotherapy is not taken, patients can have surgery and take hormone-blocking drugs instead.

The study was funded by the American Cancer Institute and the results are expected to help up to 70,000 people in the U.S. each year.

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