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According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight American women will develop breast cancer. The good news is, over the years, a lot of research and progress have been made.

One such advance is a new test to help patients determine their risk of a recurrence. That's a crucial tool for cancer patients. If they know early on they're high-risk, they can seek more aggressive treatment.

But, to understand all of this, let's first talk a bit about breast cancer. It originates in the glands that produce and deliver milk. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 50-percent of patients show no evidence that the cancer has spread to their lymph nodes. However, twenty percent of those patients find their cancer has metastasized.

Here's why. Even though most women are diagnosed with early stage tumors, it's impossible to know if all cancer cells were eliminated by surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. When those cancerous cells are left behind, cancer can return five to ten years down the road.

Here's where the new test comes in. It's called Mammaprint® - a microarray cancer diagnostic test that uses 70 genes in a woman's tumor to predict whether cancer will return ten years after initial treatment. The accuracy is an impressive 96.7 percent.

This test measures the genes involved in cancer growth and spread. If the test shows a woman has a high risk of relapse, even though she seems fine now, she can begin aggressive treatment.

There is another similar test on the market called Oncotype DX. Neither test is cheap - at $32-hundred dollars. But, they're valuable tools and offer yet more hope in the fight against breast cancer.

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For more information…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announcement clearing Mammprint, a test that determines the likelihood of breast cancer returning within five to ten years after a woman's initial cancer. It is the first cleared molecular test that profiles genetic activity.
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The company marketing Mammaprint provides information about its product.
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An article entitled, "DIAGNOSTICS: Amid Debate, Gene-Based Cancer Test Approved" by Jennifer Couzin appeared in Science magazine earlier this year. It provides information about the test, its uses and limitations.
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A research article published in BMC Genomics in 2006 looks at the rebustness and reproducibility of the Mammaprint array and its utility as a diagnostic and prognostic tool in breast cancer.
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