The benefits were seen in some breast and bowel cancer patients, with the supplement thought to reduce inflammation. "We originally, years ago, just did surgery, and then for many many years, everybody got chemotherapy, and now we know that we have these anti-hormonal drugs and pills that women can take". Without the stamp money, the study may never have been done, he said. In contrast, for patients with a low recurrence score (0-10), the benefits of chemotherapy are unlikely to outweigh the risks and toxicity.
Jane Murphy, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, said: "It's really interesting to see different avenues are being explored to help women adapt to life after breast cancer, which can be incredibly daunting and hard".
The breast cancer study focused on cases where chemo's value increasingly is in doubt: women with early-stage disease that has not spread to lymph nodes, is hormone-positive (meaning its growth is fueled by estrogen or progesterone) and is not the type that the drug Herceptin targets. The study confirmed that using a 21-gene analyzation to assess cancer recurrence risk can successfully indicate whether or not a woman needs to undergo invasive and unnecessary chemotherapy treatment.
"The study should have a huge impact on doctors and patients - its findings will greatly expand the number of patients who can forgo chemotherapy without compromising their outcomes", said Kathy Albain, chair of oncology research at Loyola University School of Medicine, in Chicago, USA, and co-author of the study.
"However, this is a small study so more research is needed before we have clear-cut answers on the benefits of fish oil for easing pain from breast cancer treatment". Similar evaluations like one called MammaPrint are also widely used.
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"There are side effects to it, joint aches and hot flashes, but certainly significantly less than chemotherapy", CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus, a cancer specialist, said on "CBS This Morning" Monday.
Adine Usher, 78, who lives in Hartsdale, New York, joined the study 10 years ago at Montefiore and was randomly assigned to the group given chemo.
"Testing solved a large issue of figuring out that desires chemo, said Lots of women believe" if I do not get chemotherapy I will die, and when I get chemo I'm likely to be treated", but the results show there is a sliding scale of advantage and sometimes not one, " he explained.
"I was somewhat relieved". The treatments "weren't pleasant", she concedes.
If doctors had recommended she skip chemo based on the gene test, "I would have accepted that", she said.