Many breast cancer patients can safely skip chemotherapy

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Most women with the most common form of early-stage breast cancer can safely skip chemotherapy without hurting their chances of beating the disease, doctors are reporting from a landmark study that used genetic testing to gauge each patient’s risk.

Cancer care has been evolving away from chemotherapy — older drugs with harsh side effects — in favour of gene-targeting therapies, hormone blockers and immune system treatments. When chemo is used now, it’s sometimes for shorter periods or lower doses than it once was.

The usual treatment is surgery followed by years of a hormone-blocking drug. But many women also are urged to have chemo to help kill any stray cancer cells. Doctors know that most don’t need it, but evidence is thin on who can forgo it.

After nine years, 94 per cent of both groups were still alive, and about 84 per cent were alive without signs of cancer, so adding chemo made no difference.

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