I’ve never had my body sampled, biopsied, tested and prodded as much as I have in the few months since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s a lot to deal with and quite a lot of information to absorb.
Take the Oncotype DX test. Just the name is kind of overwhelming. And doing research is only a little helpful. Especially if you are a visual, artsy person like me. The medical explanations make my eyes cross sometimes.
I got lucky though, the oncologist I got through my insurance company likes to explain things in pictures. How great is that?
Here is roughly how she explained the Oncotype DX test to me.
You’ll have to imagine her Indian accent as you read.
You pull into a new neighborhood and it’s almost dark. Before you leave your car you take a look around the area where you are parked to get a feel for the neighborhood- to make sure it’s a safe area to get out and walk around.
Here are the things you may look at.
Are the houses well kept?
What do the other cars in the area look like?
How are the people walking out on the street dressed?
Are there people out walking around?
We use our personal experience and best judgement to decide if leaving the car is safe.
The Oncotype DX test is similar. It looks at a slice of your biopsy and compares it to a set of criteria to help determine how safe you are from your breast cancer coming back.
The test results will give you a number of 1-100. The higher the number, the more likely it is that your cancer will return.
If you get a high number your neighborhood is NOT safe – keep driving. A low number means you are free to leave your car and you can feel safe.
End of beautiful Indian accent.
So far I’ve been borderline for chemo. My tumor size, age and type of cancer meant I could go either way. The decision was up to me but I didn’t feel like I could make the choice with the knowledge I had. I was worried that if I skipped the chemo my cancer would return in a few years and I would want to kick myself. So my Dr. ordered the Oncotype DX.
Even though everything else is borderline the test result was low. Yes!
It makes me feel safe enough to pass on the chemo and head straight to radiation. Doing chemo only reduces my risk of recurrence by 1% and to me the side effects far out weigh that 1%.
The best news I’ve gotten in MONTHS is that I won’t have to go through chemo.
And now I’m just kicking myself for cutting my hair. I can live with that. 🙂
BTW, when you have your tumor biopsied it is kept just for future testing like the Oncotype DX test. It is sliced up, treated with a chemical and stored in wax. That way when further tests are ordered the lab looks at (or in the case of the Oncotype DX test the ships it off to a lab in California) one of the slices. No more procedures.