Oncotype DX® Test

The information on this page will help you understand more about the Oncotype DX test. We hope it answers some of your questions and concerns. If you would like more information, contact the National Cancer Helpline on Freefone 1800 200 700 and speak to a specialist nurse in confidence.

What is the Oncotype DX test?

Oncotype DX is a test carried out on a small amount of breast cancer tissue from patients recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The test looks at the activity of a group of 21 genes in your tumour and can help give more information about your cancer. This can help you and your doctors decide if you will benefit from chemotherapy as part of your treatment.

Who will benefit from having an Oncotype DX test?

The Oncotype DX test is only helpful for patients with certain types of breast cancer.

The test may be used for you if the breast cancer is:

  • Early stage
  • Oestrogen receptor positive (ER+). This means that the breast cancer is stimulated by the hormone oestrogen
  • Lymph node negative. This means there that there are no cancer cells in your lymph glands
  • HER2 negative. This means that the cancer does not have high levels of the HER2 protein

When is the Oncotype DX test carried out?

Once you have seen your breast surgeon for the results of your operation (also called your histology results), you will be referred to an oncologist. At this appointment, your oncologist will discuss further breast cancer treatments with you. He or she will tell you if the Oncotype DX test could help with your decision-making and can arrange to do the test.

Where can I have an Oncotype DX test?

The test is carried out in your treatment centre. In Ireland, the HSE funds the Oncotype DX® test for public patients referred by their oncologist for the test. Private patients with Aviva Health, VHI and Laya Healthcare are also covered for the cost of the test.

How is the Oncotype DX test carried out?

The Oncotype DX test is carried out on breast cancer tissue which was taken at the time of your operation. There is no need for further samples to be taken from you. This sample is sent to a licensed laboratory in the USA to be analysed.

How do I get my results?

You will be scheduled for an appointment with your oncologist who will discuss your result and what it means for you. The result is usually available within 10-14 days.

What is the Oncotype DX recurrence score?

Your oncologist will receive your report containing the results of your Oncotype DX test. The report shows your recurrence score, which is a number between 0 and 100. This number has been calculated by looking at the activity of 21 genes found in your breast cancer tissue.

What does my recurrence score mean to me?

The recurrence score can predict how likely it is that your cancer will return in the future. Recurrence scores are grouped into 3 categories according to your risk of disease recurrence: low, intermediate and high. It also helps to show how effective chemotherapy will be for you. This means that your recurrence score can help you and your doctor decide on the best treatment for you.

Low recurrence score (18 or less)

If your recurrence score is low, this means that there is a low chance of the disease coming back. It is unlikely that you will need chemotherapy but you will be offered hormone therapy.

Intermediate recurrence score (between 18 & 30)

If your recurrence score is intermediate, this means that there is a moderate chance of the disease coming back. You will usually be offered a choice of chemotherapy plus hormone therapy, or hormone therapy alone. If your recurrence score is intermediate, it can be unclear if you need chemotherapy or not. This is often when the decision is hardest to make. The decision will most likely depend on your actual score and whether it is on the low or high end of this range.

High recurrence score (32 or more)

If you have a high recurrence score, this means that here is a high risk or higher chance of the disease coming back. On the positive side, it also means that chemotherapy will work more effectively for you. You will most likely be offered chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

Can Oncotype DX help show if radiotherapy will benefit me?

No. Oncotype DX will only tell you about the possible benefits of chemotherapy. The decision about radiotherapy will depend on the type of surgery you had. Your doctor will discuss your individual treatments with you in detail.

Call the National Cancer Helpline

For more information on the Oncotype DX test or any aspect of breast cancer, call the National Cancer Helpline on Freefone 1800 200 700 and speak with a specialist nurse in confidence.

Date Last Reviewed: 
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Date Last Revised: 
Thursday, June 18, 2015