WEDNESDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Women with breast cancer who undergo radiation after a lumpectomy have significantly fewer recurrences and, consequently, greater odds of survival than women who forgo radiation, new research says.
The study also noted no long-term adverse effects from radiation after this breast-conserving surgery, as deaths from any cause were also reduced substantially.
"For the first time, this showed this important linkage between using radiation to avoid local recurrence and improving long-term survival," said Dr. Jay Harris, chairman of radiation oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. "Up until 2005, the prevailing attitude in the U.S. was that radiation did not have an impact on improving long-term survival and was strictly to reduce local recurrence."
Giving radiotherapy after breast-conserving treatment is already common practice, said Dr. Shelly Hayes, a radiation oncologist with Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. The point is to destroy any stray cells in the affected breast.
The findings echo the results of a landmark 2005 paper that involved fewer women and shorter follow-up. They should help erase any lingering doubts among skeptics, experts said.
"It is going to be very helpful to see updated results with lots more patients, lots more follow-up and this is very substantial improvement in long-term outcome," Harris said.
Here, the authors assessed data on almost 11,000 women in 17 randomized trials that compared radiation with no radiation after lumpectomy.
The authors took the unusual step of including both published and unpublished trials, making "the data very reliable," said Harris.
Overall, irradiating the affected breast halved recurrence rates and cut the mortality rate by one-sixth, the researchers said.
After 10 years, 19 percent of women
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