A growing number of cancer patients, especially those with breast and lung cancers, are being spared the dreaded treatment in favor of other options.
Dr. Seema Doshi, a dermatologist near Boston, thought it was a foregone conclusion that she would have to undergo chemotherapy when a cancerous lump was found in her breast in 2019. Credit... Lauren Justice for The New York Times
“That rocked my world,” said Dr. Doshi, a dermatologist in private practice in the Boston suburb of Franklin who was 46 at the time of her diagnosis. “I thought, ‘That’s it. I will have to do chemotherapy.’”
Dr. Doshi was the beneficiary of a quiet revolution in breast cancer treatment, a slow chipping away at the number of people for whom chemotherapy is recommended. Chemotherapy for decades was considered “the rule, the dogma,” for treating breast cancer and other cancers, said Dr. Gabriel Hortobagyi, a breast cancer specialist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. But data from a variety of sources offers some confirmation of what many oncologists say anecdotally — the method is on the wane for many cancer patients.
Genetic tests can now reveal whether chemotherapy would be beneficial. For many there are better options with an ever-expanding array of drugs, including estrogen blockers and drugs that destroy cancers by attacking specific proteins on the surface of tumors. And there is a growing willingness among oncologists to scale back unhelpful treatments.