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A Message to Nova Scotia From a Breast Cancer Survivor

By Rethink Contributor December 16 2015

I was diagnosed with stage 1 invasive breast cancer in July 2015. Although I was devastated with this diagnosis, I was pleased to find out that I was a candidate for the Oncotype DX test due to the characteristics of my tumour.

The Oncotype DX test determines the likelihood of cancer recurrence and whether or not the risks of chemotherapy would outweigh the benefits for a particular individual. I was shocked and very disappointed to find out that Nova Scotia’s MSI program does not currently cover the Oncotype DX test, despite the fact that research has shown it to be a very effective test and many other Canadian provinces do cover the cost of this important test.

I believe that Nova Scotians deserve to have the Oncotype DX test done if their oncologist feels that they could benefit from it. I did end up having the Oncotype DX test done and it definitely changed the course of my treatment for the better. I received a low score on the test which meant that I would NOT benefit from having chemotherapy. As you could imagine, this was a huge relief for both myself and my family.

I am a mother of 2 young children and if I were to have unnecessarily undergone chemotherapy it would have negatively impacted both my family and society as a whole as I would have been unable to work for the last 6 months. As it turned out, I was only off work for 3-4 weeks.

I believe the cost of the Oncotype DX test would pay for itself several times over in savings from unnecessary medical expenses, as well as increased tax revenues from patients being able to quickly return to work, as I did. Chemotherapy is toxic and has many side effects that often lead to future health problems which would put financial strains on the Nova Scotia health care system in the years to come.

In addition, I saw my oncologist in November and he discharged me from his care since I did not end up needing chemotherapy. Thus, freeing up the healthcare system for people that need it and saving MSI money, as I no longer need oncology followup appointments since I did not have chemotherapy.

I think that the Nova Scotia government needs to realize that the Oncotype DX test can save the province significant amounts of money in the long run not to mention the mental and physical anguish it can save breast cancer patients. I am very thankful that I had the Oncotype DX test and feel that other Nova Scotians deserve the opportunity to be spared the toxic effects of chemotherapy which in turn will also save the province money rather than being a penny wise and a pound foolish.


Sarah (a breast cancer survivor)

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