Shorter Radiation Course as Effective as Longer Course in Early Breast Cancer

Posted on March 8th, 2009 by

Shorter Radiation Course as Effective as Longer Course in Early Breast Cancer

A shorter course and lower doses of radiation therapy to the breast results in equivalent outcomes among patients with early breast cancer who have undergone surgery compared to the standard longer course and higher doses. These results were recently presented at a plenary session at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Society of Therapeutic Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).

Early breast cancer is often treated with the surgical removal of the cancer followed by radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is used to kill cancer cells that may be remaining in the surrounding areas following surgery. Radiation therapy is associated with significant time commitments for patients and caregivers as well as side effects; in an effort to reduce these complications, lower doses and shorter courses of radiation therapy are being compared to standard radiation schedules.

Researchers from Canada recently conducted a clinical trial to compare the risk of cancer recurrences between two different radiation schedules among patients with early breast cancer. This trial included 1,234 women whose cancer had not spread to their lymph nodes. Participants had undergone the surgical removal of their cancer (lumpectomy) followed by either the standard radiation schedule or a shorter schedule with lower doses of radiation therapy. At 10 years recurrence rates were 6.7% for women treated with the standard radiation schedule compared with 6.2% for those treated with the shorter schedule.

The researchers concluded that for women with early breast cancer, a shorter radiation schedule with lower doses of radiation therapy provides equivalent results to that of the standard radiation schedule. In Canada the shorter course of radiation therapy has already been adopted as standard therapy, and it is thought that the United States will adopt the new radiation course soon.

Women diagnosed with early breast cancer may wish to speak with their radiation oncologist regarding their individual risks and benefits of different radiation schedules.

Reference: Whelan TJ, et al. Long-term results of a randomized trial of accelerated hypofractionated whole breast irradiation following breast conserving surgery in women with node-negative breast cancer. Proceedings from the 2008 annual meeting of the American Society of Therapeutic Radiation Oncology. Plenary Session. Abstract #60.

Related News: Less Radiation Effectively Reduces Breast Cancer Recurrence (06/12/2007)

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