Hear from Our Patients

Gail's Story

“I had made up my mind not to take the chemo, but I also wanted to do everything I could to try and prevent the cancer from returning. So when I saw the results, I knew what I needed to do and felt more confident about my decision to add chemotherapy to my hormonal treatment.”

When Gail, a retired medical assistant, was diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive, lymph node-negative breast cancer last December, she was upset by the diagnosis but not very surprised since many of her friends and family have also faced breast cancer.

At first Gail only wanted to take radiation and hormonal therapy because her tumor was small, but her doctor urged her to consider adding chemotherapy to her treatment plan. Because Gail wasn’t certain about the best treatment for her breast cancer, her doctor recommended that she take the Oncotype DX test. This test looks at the activity of 21 genes within a woman’s breast tumor to better understand how her individual cancer is behaving.

“I wanted to do it [the test] because I knew it would help me make a treatment plan with my doctor.”

When Gail learned about the test, she remembers that, “I wanted to do it because I knew it would help me make a treatment plan with my doctor.”> Oncotype DX measures an individual woman’s chances of benefiting from chemotherapy, as well as the likelihood that her cancer will return or spread in the future. Having this information was important to Gail, since she knew that not all women will benefit from chemotherapy.

Gail’s test results were in the intermediate range, indicating that her cancer was somewhat more likely to return in the future than the cancers of women in the low-risk group. Gail recalls that, “I had made up my mind not to take the chemo, but I also wanted to do everything I could to try and prevent the cancer from returning. So when I saw the results, I knew what I needed to do and felt more confident about my decision to add chemotherapy to my hormonal treatment.”

Today, Gail has completed both her chemotherapy and her radiation treatment. She continues to take her daily hormonal treatment and will do so for five years. She is back to feeling good and enjoys spending time with her new husband, Alphonse, and caring for her mother. In her spare time, Gail loves window-shopping and follows all the fashion trends—she even had her wig cut to look just like Rihanna!

Read More

Deepa's Story

"All of this has allowed me to gain a unique perspective from being a breast cancer surgeon and breast cancer patient. Now I know what it's like to face cancer. I have walked in my patients' shoes."

While on spring break with her family in 2015, Deepa felt pain in the right side of her chest. After a mammogram revealed a mass in her breast, she immediately got an ultrasound and biopsy. After a mammogram revealed a mass in her breast, she immediately got an ultrasound and biopsy. At 41 years of age, Deepa, a new breast surgeon faculty member at Grant Medical Center in Ohio, was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

Like most patients, Deepa was devastated with the diagnosis and what it could potentially mean for her career as a breast surgeon. She was faced with the same decision her patients had to make - whether to get a lumpectomy or mastectomy, and whether or not she would need chemotherapy.

As a surgeon, she knew a lumpectomy would also include radiation with potential side effects - something she had seen first-hand with her patients. Ultimately, Deepa decided on a mastectomy with reconstruction.

"All of this has allowed me to gain a unique perspective from being a breast cancer surgeon and breast cancer patient. Now I know what it's like to face cancer. I have walked in my patients' shoes."
After her mastectomy, the pathology results showed that she had a 1.5cm tumor. Deepa immediately knew that she would need the Oncotype DX test. Based on her clinical features, Deepa guessed that she would have an Oncotype DX Recurrence Score of 10.

The results came back with a Recurrence Score of 18 meaning her benefit from chemotherapy would be low, and she decided not to do chemotherapy.

After this experience, she recognizes that there are real people behind the statistics that doctors give to patients. Deepa now calls her patients as soon as their results come in because she understands their anxiety when waiting for answers. Deepa ensures that when she has discussion with her patients, they have a shared decision-making process about treatment and that her patients are empowered to ask the right questions when they see a medical oncologist.
Read More

Joyce's Story

“Given my age and the type of cancer I had, it didn’t seem likely that I would benefit much from chemo.”

When Joyce had a routine mammogram in 2006, everything seemed fine. Then the chief of radiology at her local hospital called her in for additional imaging. She was called back a second time for a surgical biopsy, which revealed that Joyce, at age 63, had breast cancer.
“My Recurrence Score result was one more piece of information that helped us make that decision,”
Although Joyce had been diagnosed at a smaller medical practice in the Boston area, her son-in-law, a California-based surgeon, advised her to take advantage of the resources available at the major teaching hospitals in Boston and referred her to a surgeon at one of the hospitals there for treatment.

A lumpectomy and removal of a sentinel lymph node revealed that Joyce had node-negative infiltrating ductal carcinoma.

After surgery, Joyce met with her oncologist to discuss the next step in her treatment. Her oncologist recommended radiation therapy and said that chemotherapy might also be needed. Joyce began researching breast cancer treatment and found that chemotherapy can affect the heart, bones and brain, as well as cause nausea and hair loss. "I really didn’t want to have it," she said. "Given my age and the type of cancer I had, it didn’t seem likely that I would benefit much from chemo."

“Given my age and the type of cancer I had, it didn’t seem likely that I would benefit much from chemo.”
She asked her oncologist if there was a test that could tell her whether chemotherapy would likely be beneficial, and her oncologist recommended—and ordered—the Oncotype DX assay. Joyce’s Recurrence Score result was a 24, indicating that she was at an intermediate risk for cancer recurrence. In patients with a Recurrence Score in the intermediate range, the benefit from chemotherapy is still being studied to determine how likely these patients are to respond to this treatment.

Joyce and her oncologist decided against chemotherapy. “My Recurrence Score result was one more piece of information that helped us make that decision,” she said. “You want to get as many facts together as you can.” Joyce had radiation therapy and is taking tamoxifen.

Now 65, Joyce is back to her normal life. She stays busy taking care of her young grandson. A former art teacher, she also works on prints and watercolors in her home studio. She stays active by participating in Jazzercise, and she and her husband enjoy traveling.
Read More

Mike's Story

“My score impacted my journey by eliminating the doctor’s recommendation for further chemotherapy treatments.”

Mike didn't think men could get breast cancer until he was diagnosed at the age of 49.

It all began one night when he felt a tender lump in his right breast. If it wasn't for bloody discharge from his nipple, Mike might have ignored the lump altogether. Concerned, he visited a breast surgeon, who performed a biopsy after a mammogram and ultrasound were completed. Although rare in men, Mike was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Mike had a significant family history of cancer. His mother was a breast cancer survivor who had been diagnosed in her 40s, only to later pass away from ovarian cancer.

Mike, a sales director at a major corporation who describes himself as being very matter-of-fact, was shocked by his diagnosis but immediately scheduled surgery. Mike underwent mastectomy and sentinel axillary lymph node dissection. Because the sentinel lymph node was positive for cancer, his surgeon completed an axillary lymph node dissection, removing 14 lymph nodes altogether.

"Men [who] go too long without going to see their doctors. I took the time to have it checked out. I encourage my buddies to do the same."
After the successful surgery, Mike met with an oncologist to discuss his treatment options. Based on the positive node, Mike’s oncologist recommended chemotherapy, and Mike prepared himself for the possible side effects. Mike underwent his first round of chemotherapy without any immediate difficulty. A week later, he was out of town on business and started to experience severe abdominal pain. Mike was admitted to the ICU at a local hospital and was diagnosed with inflammation of the cecum (a segment of the intestine).

After returning home, his doctors decided that Mike was not healthy enough to resume chemotherapy. Unless the inflammation resolved, Mike would need to have the inflamed segment of intestine removed in order to continue with chemotherapy. They waited for a few weeks, but there was still no improvement. Because of this quandary and the need to make a decision about the next step in his treatment, Mike's surgeon suggested using the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score assay to evaluate the benefit of chemotherapy.

Based on a Recurrence Score result of 3, Mike’s oncologist determined that chemotherapy did not offer significant benefit in his case and recommended hormonal therapy with tamoxifen.
"It's reassuring knowing that chemo isn't something that I have to take a risk with."
Once this decision had been made with the help of the Oncotype DX assay, Mike was very relieved. "It's reassuring knowing that chemo isn't something that I have to take a risk with," he says.

While Mike was seeking information about his diagnosis, he realized that there isn't much information or literature available for men who have breast cancer. He also met some barriers when seeking pre-approval for Oncotype DX from his insurance company. "They told me, 'Because you're a man, it's not covered. If you were a woman, you would be covered.'" But Exact Sciences's Genomic Access Program offered to appeal directly to his insurance company, or to work out a payment plan.

Today, with the support of his wife, three children, and work colleagues, Mike feels healthy and continues treatment with tamoxifen. Even though Mike thinks that he was fortunate, he recognizes the obstacles he personally experienced as a male breast cancer patient and has some valuable advice for "Men [who] go too long without going to see their doctors. I took the time to have it checked out. I encourage my buddies to do the same."

Read More

Sandy's Story

"It was as if I was standing at a huge fork in the road and Oncotype DX helped me decide which path to follow.”

For Sandy, a 38-year-old preschool teacher and young mother, the thought of breast cancer never crossed her mind; she did not do regular breast self-examinations. However, during Memorial Day weekend in 2006, she made an unexpected and alarming discovery—a lump the size of a small marble in her left breast.

"It was as if I was standing at a huge fork in the road and Oncotype DX helped me decide which path to follow.”
Confirmed by mammography and ultrasound, the lump was revealed to be malignant by a needle biopsy procedure. Less than one month after her initial discovery, Sandy underwent a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and also removal of 11 lymph nodes, all of which turned out to be negative for cancer.

Sandy then faced the challenging decision of whether or not to have chemotherapy. She knew patients with tumors the size of hers—slightly over one centimeter—were on the borderline in terms of being recommended for chemotherapy treatment. Guided by her physician, she turned to the Oncotype DX assay for greater insight about her tumor so that she could make an informed decision about beginning a therapy associated with potentially debilitating side effects.

When her Oncotype DX Recurrence Score came in at 28, at the high end of the intermediate-risk range, Sandy immediately decided to proceed with a two-month course of chemotherapy. Although she experienced bouts of fatigue, she found the side effects to be surprisingly manageable. In fact, with help and support from her husband and two young sons, she continued her job teaching a lively group of four-year-olds. A competitive swimmer in high school, she also kept up an active exercise program, swimming three times a week.

“The additional information provided by Oncotype DX made a difficult decision much easier."
“The additional information provided by Oncotype DX made a difficult decision much easier." said Sandy. "It was as if I was standing at a huge fork in the road and Oncotype DX helped me decide which path to follow. Once I began treatment, there was no second-guessing. I felt as if I had made the best possible decision for me, and I was able to concentrate all my energies on getting better.”
Read More

Vilma's Story

“The Oncotype DX test gave me a tangible way to view the benefits of chemotherapy.”

When Vilma had a routine screening mammogram in August of 2007, it revealed an abnormality. During the following two weeks, she had a diagnostic mammogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy. With her diagnosis confirmed, Vilma, 48, knew she was facing surgery.

Vilma met with a general surgeon who recommended a lumpectomy, the most conservative procedure. During the surgery, he also removed a sentinel node, which was positive. This prompted a second surgery; an axillary node dissection. An additional 13 nodes were removed, all negative. The surgeon informed her that the positive sentinel node was a sign that her cancer had spread to the axilla and that her treatment plan should include chemotherapy. He referred her to an oncologist.

“The Oncotype DX test gave me a tangible way to view the benefits of chemotherapy.”

Before further treatment, however, Vilma needed to recover from her surgeries. She used this time to learn more about breast cancer treatment. She found Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book and www.komen.org especially informative. From Dr. Love’s book, Vilma learned about the Oncotype DX, which is a relatively new test, and planned to ask her oncologist about it.

During her initial consultation, her oncologist mentioned Oncotype DX. “I was excited that she recommended the test,” Vilma said. “It showed that she was familiar with current breast cancer practices and wanted to form a comprehensive treatment plan. I felt confident that I had found the right oncologist.”

Vilma’s oncologist ordered the Oncotype DX test, and her Recurrence Score result was 19, at the bottom of the intermediate-risk range of scores. Her oncologist adjusted her treatment plan on the basis of the Recurrence Score result, recommending chemotherapy treatment. Chemo was followed by radiation therapy. And because she was ER+ and PR+, she will be on hormonal therapy for five years.

“The Oncotype DX test gave me a tangible way to view the benefits of chemotherapy” Vilma stated. Now 49, Vilma is enjoying life with her husband and two children.  She continues working as a speech-language pathologist, helping children in public schools improve their communication skills.

Read More

Elizabeth's Story

“Not all cancers are the same, so why treat everyone the same way with something so toxic? It’s so remarkable that finally, you can distinguish one person’s cancer from another—I’m just so thankful.”

In September 2005, Elizabeth, a jewelry designer and full-time mom, noticed a lump in her breast and thought it was probably a fibroid. When she went for a routine mammogram that month, Elizabeth told the technicians about the lump, but it did not appear on the films. A sonogram showed the lump as a solid mass. Elizabeth immediately underwent a biopsy, which revealed a 1.9-centimeter tumor.

Fortunately, the tumor was lymph node-negative (N-) and estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+), which meant it was contained—all positive for Elizabeth’s prognosis. She underwent a lumpectomy, followed by radiation treatment. Her tumor was close to the breastbone, so to be safe, her surgeon removed 23 lymph nodes along with the tumor.

“Not all cancers are the same, so why treat everyone the same way with something so toxic? It’s so remarkable that finally, you can distinguish one person’s cancer from another—I’m just so thankful.”
Next, Elizabeth began to search for an oncologist, visiting two oncologists who had come highly recommended. Given her status as pre-menopausal and the size of her ER+ N- tumor, both of them recommended chemotherapy followed by hormonal therapy—the standard treatment for this type of cancer.

“This was heartbreaking to me, to be hit with this at 40 years old with two young boys. I still wanted a third child,” said Elizabeth, now 42.

Elizabeth’s mother had been diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer at age 64 and was treated with a lumpectomy and radiation. Elizabeth had hoped that her treatment would be similar. After her diagnosis, Elizabeth researched doctors, treatment and support systems to find what would work for her. “It was like a full-time job,” she said.

“This was heartbreaking to me, to be hit with this at 40 years old with two young boys. I still wanted a third child.”
One morning, Elizabeth’s brother called to tell her about Oncotype DX, which he’d seen on a TV report. Elizabeth asked her surgeon about the test, and he determined that she was a candidate for the test and ordered it for her. None of the oncologists she had been to had told her about the test. “I found out about it from my brother, an investment manager at an investment bank—not the medical professionals I’d spent so much time seeking out,” she said.

Elizabeth’s Recurrence Score result was 16, indicating that her recurrence risk was in a lower range. Elizabeth made an appointment with an oncologist at a cancer center in New York to discuss her result. After the previous oncologists’ recommendations of chemotherapy and hormone therapy, Elizabeth was surprised to hear her new oncologist say that she didn’t think chemotherapy was necessary and was confident treating her with hormone therapy alone. Elizabeth’s Recurrence Score suggested that chemotherapy would provide minimal benefit.

Today, Elizabeth has completed radiation therapy and is continuing hormonal therapy. She is confident in her decision not to undergo chemotherapy, based on her Recurrence Score results. “What a great thing to be differentiated within this class of women with breast cancer,” she said. “Not all cancers are the same, so why treat everyone the same way with something so toxic? It’s so remarkable that finally, you can distinguish one person’s cancer from another—I’m just so thankful.”
Read More

Penny's Story

“When I got the call from the surgeon, my husband and I both lost it.”

In June 2004, at the age of 55, Penny had a mammogram that raised some questions about her right breast. Additional mammograms, including some with magnification, were inconclusive, so Penny went on with her life, enjoying retirement after working as an information systems analyst.

Then in December, during her annual gynecological exam, Penny’s doctor found a lump in her right breast. A subsequent mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy confirmed Penny had breast cancer.

"When I got the call from the surgeon, my husband and I both lost it. I thought I was dying. I felt like I had no control."
In March 2005, Penny underwent a double mastectomy, and the surgery revealed she had lobular breast carcinoma, which fortunately had not spread to her lymph nodes.

Penny had more treatment decisions to make but struggled to understand exactly what type of breast cancer she had. Fortunately, a friend from Penny’s Bible study group worked for Exact Sciences, and he explained that because her tumor was classified as lymph-node-negative, estrogen-receptor positive, she could use a test called Oncotype DX to determine the likelihood that her cancer would return.

Penny's doctor ordered the test. Her Recurrence Score result was 13, indicating that there a low risk breast cancer would return. Penny and her doctor decided she would forego chemotherapy and opted for radiation and hormonal therapy only. Penny credits the test with putting her back in control of her disease and life.

Today, Penny is healthy and busier than ever growing and selling produce at the farmers’ market, making wine with her husband and looking after over 70 animals that live on their land.
Read More

Read More

Katherine's Story

"My recurrence score was 18, and I was so happy to find out that I would not benefit from chemotherapy."

In 2003, Katherine, a 53-year-old podiatrist and one of the first female Goju-Kai style karate black belts in the United States, found a lump in her breast during a self-examination. After multiple rounds of tests and a double mastectomy to remove her invasive breast cancer, Katherine had to choose whether to get chemotherapy to reduce the likelihood of her cancer recurring.

As Katherine contemplated her decision, her husband learned about Oncotype DX, a new test that was coming onto the market. Katherine’s physician had heard about the test but didn’t think that it would be available for a couple of years. They made a deal that if she did the legwork in researching when the test would become available, and he determined that it was appropriate for her management, he would order it for her. In the meantime, standard assessments of Katherine’s tumor indicated that chemotherapy would be necessary. She called Exact Sciences regularly to see if the test was available.

In January 2004, Katherine became the first woman to use the Oncotype DX assay and learned she had a Recurrence Score result of 18.

Following treatment with an aromatase inhibitor, Katherine has become a certified ski instructor along with her husband. They enjoy spending time together with their dog, Connor, who is also a cancer survivor.

Read More

Linda's Story

"Of all the things that could ever happen to me in my life, I never thought I would get cancer."

"Of all the things that could ever happen to me in my life, I never thought I would get cancer," Linda said. Still, that was her sudden reality when she was diagnosed in June 2006. "There was a shock factor there." Speaking of her initial experience and the rapid journey from diagnosis, to an MRI, to surgery, Linda called it, "a long, terrible weekend."

"I was against having chemotherapy."

Linda had a mammogram exactly one year before her diagnosis that showed nothing. Then, the next one showed a 2.2 cm tumor. She saw a surgeon and had a biopsy, then received a phone call telling her it was malignant. Within a week or so, Linda had a right breast lumpectomy, and her doctors instructed her to have radiation and tamoxifen therapy.

"My oncologist told me about a clinical trial involving the Oncotype DX assay. Although I didn't participate in the trial, I did want to have the test, and Exact Sciences was invaluable in helping me get reimbursed for it. We sent off the tumor and two weeks later, I had my result—my score was 28, meaning I was at medium to high risk for cancer recurrence."

“My oncologist told me about a clinical trial involving the Oncotype DX assay.”
"Oncotype DX affected my treatment decision totally," Linda said. She noted that her surgeon and oncologist recommended chemo. Although she had been completely against it, she decided to undergo chemo because the test results indicated that she was at medium to high risk for recurrence. Linda said that she was more confident in her decision. A week after that meeting, Linda started chemotherapy.

"I shaved my hair; my attitude was, 'cancer isn’t getting it.' It had been brown. When it came back, it was silver," said Linda. "I teach third-grade religious education. I subbed one day while I had a bald head. I wore a scarf. All the kids wanted to see my bald head. A few months later, some of the same kids saw me again and said, 'Mrs. Porter, you have hair!'"

It took Linda almost a full year to get her strength back. "I'm back to working full time, as a human resources manager for an engineering firm, and doing volunteer work," said Linda. "I love entertaining and cooking. Every four months, I see my surgeon, radiologist or oncologist, then my gynecologist and family practice doctor." Linda's cancer was detected following a regular mammogram. Linda said, "be faithful to your mammograms!"
Read More
Making cancer care smarter.®
X

We may use cookies to improve your experience with our website and to provide you with more relevant content based on your interests. To learn more about what information we collect, how we use it, and how to manage cookies, review our Privacy Policy.