Breast Cancer

FAQs and Patient Resources

FAQs

When should the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test be used?

The Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test is for patients who have been recently diagnosed with invasive stage I, II, or IIIa breast cancer. In addition, the patient’s breast cancer needs to be estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) and HER2-negative (HER2-).

The Breast Recurrence Score test is performed on a post-surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy) tumour sample or on a core biopsy. As a result, the test should be used after the original surgery or biopsy, but before treatment begins—since the test is intended to help guide treatment decisions. Learn more about how the Breast Recurrence Score test works.

What is the difference between genetic tests (e.g., BRCA 1 and BRCA 2) and
genomic tests like the Oncotype DX test?

Genetic tests help people understand their risk for getting cancer. Genomic tests help people who have been diagnosed with cancer with their treatment planning. Once you have cancer, the activity of certain genes in your tumour tissue influences the behavior of your tumour, including how likely it is to grow and spread. The Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test looks at these genes to help you and your doctor make decisions about your care.

What differentiates the anatomic stages of breast cancer? How does this affect my eligibility?

There are five different anatomic stages of breast cancer: 0, I, II, III, and IV. These stages tell you how much the cancer has grown and spread. For example, stage 0 cancer is an early form of non-invasive cancer that is contained in one place, while stage IV is cancer that has spread throughout the body. If you have stage I, II, or IIIa breast cancer, you may be eligible for the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test.

If you have ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), you have stage 0 (non-invasive) cancer. “In situ” means all of the cancer cells have not spread outside the milk duct. Only patients with DCIS are eligible for Oncotype DX Breast DCIS Score test.

Learn more about the anatomic stages of cancer.

What does it mean to be ER-positive or ER-negative?

Estrogen is one of the hormones in your body. It has many roles, such as triggering development of female characteristics and facilitating the reproductive process. In (and on) breast cells, there are “hormone receptors”—proteins that pick up estrogen signals that tell the cells to grow. They are called “estrogen receptors.”

If the cancer cells in your breast have estrogen receptors, they are called "ER-positive". ER-positive cancer cells (like normal breast cells) may receive signals from estrogen—so the cancer might respond to hormonal therapy. If the cancer cells don’t have estrogen receptors, they are classified as "ER-negative". With ER-negative cancer cells, hormonal treatment is unlikely to work, so your doctor will look for other options.

What does HER2 mean?

HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) is a protein also appears on the surface of some breast cancer cells. HER2-positive breast cancers have a lot of HER2 proteins (“HER2 over-expression” or “HER2 amplification”). HER2-negative breast cancers have little or no HER2 proteins. Different treatments are considered depending on the HER2 status.

Only patients with HER2-negative (HER2-) status are eligible for the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test.

What does lymph node-negative mean?

You have many lymph nodes in your body. These are small organs that help remove unwanted particles such as bacteria and viruses from your body. If your tumour has not spread to nearby lymph nodes, your cancer will be classified as "lymph node-negative (N-)." If the cancer has been found in the lymph nodes, the cancer will be classified as "lymph node-positive (N+)."

Patients with N- breast cancer may be eligible for the Oncotype DX breast cancer test. Patients with N+, estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer may also be eligible for the test.

How long will it take to get the test results of the Oncotype DX test?

Most results from the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test are available around two weeks from the date the tumour sample is received by the Genomic Health laboratory. The results are sent to your doctor so that he or she can discuss the results with you and answer your questions.

Is the Oncotype DX test covered by insurance?

The Oncotype DX test has been available in Canada since the end of 2007, and to date, over 25,000 Canadian women have benefited from testing. There is publicly funded coverage for the Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay patients in a number of Canadian provinces including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland. Individual patients also have the option of paying for the test themselves if there is no coverage in their province, or if they do not meet pre-specified provincial eligibility criteria.


Patient Resources

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation is dedicated to creating a future without breast cancer, through a nation-wide movement to raise awareness and mobilize action on breast cancer. The Foundation invests in vital research, education and health promotion programs that have led progress in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation has four regional offices - BC/Yukon, Prairies/NWT, Ontario and the Atlantic Region. The Foundation’s central office is located in Toronto.

Canadian Breast Cancer Network

The Canadian Breast Cancer Network (CBCN) is Canada's leading survivor-directed, national network of organizations and individuals concerned about breast cancer. CBCN strives to voice the views and concerns of breast cancer survivors and patients through promotion of information sharing, education and advocacy activities.

Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer.

Canadian Cancer Survivor Network

The mission of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN) is to remove barriers to optimal patient care, ensure cancer survivors have access to education and action opportunities to have their voices heard in planning and implementing an optimal health care system, and to educate the public and policy makers about the financial, emotional and health costs of cancer and offer considered, positive ideas and recommendations to alleviate their effects.

Rethink Breast Cancer

Rethink’s mission is to continuously pioneer cutting-edge breast cancer education, support and research that speak fearlessly to the unique needs of young (or youngish) women.

Willow Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support

Willow offers a wide selection of services and programs for anyone living in Canada affected by breast or hereditary cancer. Willow provides free-of-cost peer support, insight and information to increase awareness, and assistance to gain clarity, in navigating the journey of breast or hereditary cancer.

Where Can I Go for More Information?

  • For more information about Genomic Health, the company behind the Oncotype DX test, visit GenomicHealth.com.
  • For stories about patients in Canada who have used the Oncotype DX test, visit the Press Room.

Useful Videos

Below are videos that can help you learn more about early-stage invasive breast cancer, treatments and personalizing your breast cancer treatment with Oncotype DX.

If you have questions about the Oncotype DX test and would like to speak with a knowledgeable customer service specialist at Genomic Health, please contact us.

Using the Oncoytpe DX Breast Cancer Test to Personalizing Treatment

Personalized breast cancer treatment with the Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay is explored by Dr. Marisa Weiss and Dr. Ruth Oratz.

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