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Shorter Radiation Therapy Effective For Breast Cancer

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 10:12 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA & Prescription Drugs, Breast Cancer, Women's Health, Lumpectomy, Mammography


IMAGE SOURCE: © Wikimedia Commons/ breast cancer ad/ author: Laurie Maitland

A newly released study finds shorter, more intense radiation therapy following surgery for early stage breast cancer is just as effective as lower doses for a longer period.

Study findings suggest women that are diagnosed with breast cancer may undergo shorter treatment cycles, allowing them to get back to their families and regular routines quicker, researchers said.

The National Cancer Institute estimates 184,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2008, of them, 41,000 women will die of the disease.

The faster approach to treatment is two-thirds more cost effective compared to standard care, said researchers at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's annual meeting.

Many women with early stage breast cancer that has not spread opt to have a lumpectomy, when only the cancerous tissue is removed to save as much of the breast as possible. The surgery is usually followed by whole breast radiation, used to destroy any lingering malignant cells.

Researchers have been investigating ways to improve and streamline the process, which takes five to seven weeks in most cases and is emotionally and physically taxing for patients and their families.

For the study, more than 1,200 women were randomly assigned to either a standard five-week therapy treatment plan or an accelerated three-week dose of radiation, known as accelerated whole breast irradiation.

The women were followed for ten to twelve years to determine if accelerated treatment was as successful as standard treatment.

Researchers found cancer returned to the same breast a decade after treatment in 6.2 percent of those treated for three weeks and 6.7 percent of those getting standard therapy.

“We were surprised to discover that the risk of local reoccurrence was relatively low in women treated with accelerated whole breast irradiation after twelve years,” said Dr. Timothy Whelan, lead author of the study and radiation oncologist at the Juravinski Cancer Centre in McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

“Accelerated treatment may not be the right course of treatment for all patients,” said Dr. Whelan. “However, I encourage women whose breast cancer is in the early stages to talk to their oncologist about the possibility of shorter therapy and if they are a good match.”

Another recent study found, a new experimental technique called molecular breast imaging (also referred to as MBI) was three times more effective than traditional mammography at detecting breast cancer tumors in women who have dense breast tissue, researchers said. #

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