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For Some Breast Cancer Patients, Shorter Radiation Works Well
Date:2/10/2010

Accelerated treatment yields similar results with less inconvenience, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Women who need radiation after breast cancer surgery do just as well with three rather than five weeks of treatment, a new Canadian study suggests.

"We consider this [finding] a win-win situation, both for women with breast cancer and the health-care system," said study author Dr. Timothy J. Whelan, head of radiation oncology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Women can have a shorter, more convenient treatment schedule, he said, and the course of treatment is less costly to them and their health-care providers.

Though shorter, the three-week schedule used in the study involved a more intense dose of radiation. But the researchers found that the women -- who all had breast-conserving surgery, in which only part of the breast is removed -- could expect similarly low rates of recurrence and comparable cosmetic results.

Previous studies have shown that up to 30 percent of women in North America who have breast-conserving surgery do not undergo the recommended breast radiation, citing inconvenience or cost, Whelan and his fellow researchers wrote in a report on the study published Feb. 11 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study involved 1,234 women with invasive breast cancer who had a lumpectomy, which involves removing the cancerous lump and a small amount of normal tissue around it. After surgery, they either had the standard radiation treatment over a 35-day period or an accelerated treatment over 22 days.

About 10 years later, the risk for local recurrence of the cancer was 6.7 percent among the women who had gotten standard radiation treatment and 6.2 percent among those who'd gotten the briefer treatment, the study found.

Cosmetic outcomes were termed good or excellent in about 71 percent of the women in the standard-treatment
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