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The Oncotype DX Test: What Is It?

You may have heard of the Oncotype DX Test and its use in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. It’s an impressive-sounding name for an equally impressive technology that gives doctors a better understanding of an individual’s breast cancer. Let’s review this test and how it is used to help patients with early-stage breast cancer.

About the Oncotype DX Test

“The Oncotype DX Test is a unique diagnostic test that measures a group of cancer-related genes in the breast-tumor tissue, allowing us to study the tumor’s biology,” said Stefania Nolano, DO, director, Breast Program at Abington-Jefferson Health.

The Oncotype DX Test is called a genomic test – it will test the genes of the tumor. It allows the doctor to learn about the tumor’s DNA and mutations that are allowing the tumor to grow. The result of the test provides doctors with very important information to guide how a patient’s individual breast cancer will be treated.

“The comprehensive 21-gene assay that is part of the Oncotype DX Test gives a Recurrence Score,” said Dr. Nolano. “An individual score will be between 0 and 100.”

A lower Recurrence Score means the breast cancer is less likely to come back within 10 years, and the patient is less likely to benefit from chemotherapy. A higher Recurrence Score result means the breast cancer is more likely to come back within 10 years, and the patient is more likely to benefit from chemotherapy.

How the Test Works

“The test is performed on a small amount of the tumor tissue that is removed during the patient’s surgery – either lumpectomy, mastectomy, or core biopsy,” said Dr. Nolano. The Oncotype DX Test does not require the patient to have any additional surgery or procedure.

Most results are available within a week to 10 days from the date the tumor sample is received by the laboratory that analyzes it. The next step is that the physician will discuss the results with the patient and tailor a treatment plan specifically for her.

Who is a Candidate for the Test?

The Oncotype DX Test is not right for every patient. Depending on the specific characteristics of your tumor, you may not need Oncotype. However, the Oncotype DX Test may be right for patients who fall into either of these categories:

  • Newly diagnosed with early stage invasive breast cancer that is “estrogen receptor positive” (ER+) and “human epidermal growth factor receptor negative” (HER2-).
  • Pre- or post-menopausal and lymph node negative (N-). If you are post-menopausal and lymph node positive (N+), the test is done on selective patients.

The Oncotype DX Test is covered by Medicare and by most private insurance companies. In addition, Genomic Health offers the Genomic Access Program (GAP), to help with determining insurance coverage and providing financial assistance when needed.

Another recent advancement in genomic testing is the Oncotype DX breast DCIS score.  This test is for patients with a noninvasive form of stage 0 breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). It can also help tailor a treatment plan specific to an individual’s cancer. Ask your doctor or healthcare professional if Oncotype is right for you.

For more information about breast cancer treatment, contact our dedicated breast nurse navigator at 1-800-405-HELP or

Page last reviewed: October 10, 2017
Page last updated: October 10, 2017

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