Women with certain type of breast cancer can skip chemo without hurting survival chances, study finds

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer, but a new study shows people diagnosed with one type may be able to skip it.

Researchers found skipping chemo won't hurt patients' chances of survival.

“When you get diagnosed with breast cancer, you're like, 'What?' You know, 'I work out. I eat healthy. What?'” said Robyn Tuttle, who is now cancer free.

It's a diagnosis no one wants to receive. Tuttle was diagnosed with breast cancer last August.

“My cancer was called Stage 0, which was great according to them. At the time, it didn't sound so great to me, but that meant it was still contained in the duct, so it hadn`t spread,” Tuttle said.

She had surgery at the end of September followed by a new option.

“She knew from that that the benefit of chemotherapy was very low, so she chose to not do chemotherapy, just do the hormone pill, and then also had just a short course of radiation, only three weeks instead of the standard six to seven,” said Melissa Mitchell, a radiation oncologist with the University of Kansas Cancer Center.

A new breast cancer study funded by the National Cancer Institute looked at women diagnosed with breast cancer that hadn't spread to lymph nodes and is hormone-positive.

“We now know there's a genetic test that they do on patients with early-stage hormone positive breast cancer, and the randomized data for patients with an intermediate score of 10 to 26 now shows that those patients don`t need chemotherapy,” Mitchell said. “Patients who had chemotherapy plus an anti- hormone pill versus an anti-hormone pill alone -- they had no difference in terms of their survival or outcomes long-term.”

Mitchell said we now have a huge new population of patients who no longer need to go through all the side effects that come along with chemo.

“The treatment sometimes makes you sicker than the disease,” Tuttle said. “Women don`t have to suffer more than there is necessary to be better.”

Tuttle said just having radiation was tough to go through and can't imagine going through chemo on top of it.

“Patients really struggle having to make that decision, and now they don`t have to. Now we know there`s no need to give chemotherapy to those patients anymore,” Mitchell said.

“It`s so hard on your body. Your body is trying to fight that cancer anyway, let alone having to put all of this other stuff in your system that isn`t really necessary, I just feel so blessed that I got the right doctors, and they were just on top of everything,” Tuttle said.

This study only focused on women diagnosed with breast cancer. men were not included in the study.