A genetic test which will spare 500 women a year the need to undergo chemotherapy for breast cancer will be covered by the basic health insurance package after all.
Five years ago the Dutch healthcare institute Zorginstituut Nederland decided not to include the tests, which classify tumors as being at high or low risk of recurrence, because of concerns that more women would die from breast cancer if they did not have chemotherapy.
But now the data shows over-50s women with early stage hormone-sensitive breast cancer have a 95% chance of living a further five years, whether they have had chemotherapy or not.
The picture is less clear cut for younger women. Women under the age of 50 have a 5% greater risk of the cancer spreading without chemotherapy, the research has shown.
The institute has now decided the tests – MammaPrint and Oncotype DX – should be covered by insurance for older women. “These tests allow us to do something about the over-treatment of cancer patients,” institute chairman Sjaak Wijma said. “These women can recover more quickly and pick up their lives.”
Cancer experts have welcomed the institute’s decision. “Hormone-sensitive breast cancer is much more common women over the age of 50,” Sabine Line from the AVL cancer hospital told the AD.
“This test will allow us to pinpoint one in two women who would now be given chemotherapy, but actually have a low risk of the disease spreading.”
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