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Pathologists study samples from breast tumors to look for certain genes and molecules that are expressed by the tumor. These tumor tests can help doctors develop a treatment plan tailored to the patient. These tests are different than genetic testing for inherited cancer risk, which is usually done on blood or saliva.
In breast cancer, tumor tests can be used to predict whether or not a patient needs chemotherapy and/or give a sense of the risk for recurrence. Tumor tests currently in use for breast cancer give recurrance scores that can help guide treatment decisions in people with estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer. FORCE XRAYS has reviewed resent research on two of these tests: Oncotype Dx and MammaPrint.
For some patients with advanced breast cancer, tumor marker tests can look for markers known as "targets" to help guide the choice of targeted therapies. At the moment, this type of tumor testing for targeted therapy is mostly experimental and used within research studies.