Breakthrough in breast cancer testing and treatment

It's breast cancer awareness month, and 702 host Azania Mosaka chats to Prof Justus Apffelstaedt who has over 20 years experience in the field of breast health and the management of breast cancer.

She talks to him about the use of genetic testing to create custom breast cancer treatment plans.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, improvements in molecular genetic technologies which later lead to the development of gene expression profiling tests.

These tests are able to provide specialists with an indication of the gene profile of an individual person's tumours, and from there, an indication of the cancer prognosis.

Previously we relied on light microscopy, which has been around for the last 400 hundred years and it's always intriguing to me that there hasn't been anything better around to advise us whether cancers are aggressive or not.

Prof Justus Apffelstaedt, breast cancer specialist

I don't think its right to judge the aggressiveness of a tumour by the way it looks like in its outbody appearance.

Prof Justus Apffelstaedt, breast cancer specialist

We have to see if the spread of tumors and the cancer mitosis, which ultimately kill patients are a biological phenomenon or not, explains Apffelstaedt.

Apffelstaedt says tumours that have the capability of moving through tissue to the blood vessels are far more aggressive than tumours without such properties.

Molecular genetic testing is able to reduce the number of individuals who undergo chemotherapy and also saves lives due to a more aggressive treatment regime being prescribed for individuals who at first diagnosis would be seen as low risk, he adds.

Prof Justus Apffelstaedt is an Associate Professor of Surgery at University of Stellenbosch and Head of the Tygerberg Breast Clinic

To hear the rest of the interview, listen below:

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