Mercy's Dr. David Riseberg Discusses Avoiding Chemotherapy For Early Breast Cancer Patients

March 15, 2018
Medical Oncology and Hematology at Mercy - Baltimore, MD

For many breast cancer patients, one of the toughest things to deal with are the side effects of chemotherapy. In the past, many patients went through chemo they didn't need.

A test can now determine whether a patient really needs it.

In December, Mary Lou McIlhinney got a devastating diagnosis. She had breast cancer.

"It was frightening. It was the most devastating news you could receive," McIlhinney said.

But there was some good news.Her cancer was caught early, and a test of her tumor revealed welcome information.

"The results were in favor of it being nonaggressive, which means I don't need chemo, which made me so happy," McIlhinney said.

According to McIlhinney's oncologist, Chief of Medical Oncology and Hematology at Mercy Medical Center Dr. David Riseberg, the majority of early breast cancer patients are like McIlhinney.

Their cancers are sensitive to estrogen and negative for the her-2 protein, and may not need to be treated with chemotherapy.

Doctors can now make that determination with a test.

"We take a piece of their cancer and send it off to one of a couple different labs, and they will look at the expression of a number of different genes. Some of those genes are associated with more aggressive cancers and some are associated with less aggressive cancers, and based upon the score that's provided, or this risk category, we are able to decide who needs chemo and who does not," Dr. Riseberg said.

If the patient does not need chemo, they typically have surgery -- such as a lumpectomy -- radiation and are prescribed prescription medication like tamoxifen, Dr. Riseberg explained.

McIlhinney is looking toward the future and retiring in Ocean City. After her radiation she is heading down to Florida to watch her grandson play baseball, one of many memories that lie ahead.

"(It) kind of fills me up to think about my grandchildren, but once I get through this, I'll be spending lots of time with them, and they'll be spending lots of time with me down the beach, so that'll be great," McIlhinney said.

View Mercy medical oncologist Dr. David Riseberg’s interview regarding avoiding chemotherapy in early breast cancer cases.


Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: dcollins@mdmercy.com Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on FacebookTwitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.

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