Cindie Young didn’t find a lump in her breast. Neither did a routine mammogram. But she also knew something wasn’t right.
She was absolutely correct. Another mammogram and a sonogram found the cancer. Young now is part of a clinical trial overseen by Dr. Carlos Encarnacion with Texas Oncology in Waco that hopes to help others in their fight against breast cancer.
“I didn’t find a lump,” she recalled. “But you need to listen to your body. It was more a sensation in my breast. The texture of my skin there felt different.”
Young, a Waco resident who is a flight attendant based out of Dallas, was diagnosed last June with breast cancer and through the FLEX trial with Texas Oncology learned that for her type of cancer it would be radiation, not chemotherapy, that would be the best treatment.
The FLEX trial gathers data from the genetic standpoint and the clinic standpoint in order to determine the best course of treatment, Encarnacion said.
The oncologist explained that the FLEX trial used MammaPrint, a genomic test that analyzes the activity of certain genes in early-stage breast cancer. It was that test that helped determine that radiation would be the most effective treatment for Young.
“That’s why it’s so important to take part in these trials,” Young said. “I’m a strong supporter of clinical trials. It’s a privilege. You want to find early-stage breast cancer in order to prevent metastatic breast cancer.”
She underwent a lumpectomy, seven weeks or radiation and then a radical hysterectomy as a further preventative against the cancer. She will take an endocrine therapy drug for the next five years.
Encarnacion said the FLEX trial, which has 20 patients taking part locally, is worthwhile on a number of levels.
“First, it allows new drugs to develop,” he said. “Second, the trials will tell you if certain therapies are good for you or not. Next, it’s less in terms of cost.”
Only about 5 percent of those eligible for cancer trials take part, he said. Some people mistakenly think the only time to consider taking part in a clinical trial is when there are no other options, he said.
“Clinical trials are for all stages of cancer, not just those at end-stage,” he said.
“Like with Cindie, you don’t always have the symptoms. But you should always listen to your body and if something doesn’t seem right, get examined.”
He does encourage women to have their regularly scheduled mammograms to help find potential breast cancer, and hopes that more people will sign up for clinical trials.
“These are going to benefit other people down the line,” he said.
Many of these trials and treatments can be done locally, Encarnacion added.
“It’s important to know that people do not need to travel to participate in most clinical trials,” he said. “It’s not for everybody, some people will need to go to M.D. Anderson in Houston, but there are a good number of trials that are happening here in Waco.”
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