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Radiation Most Effective Soon After Breast Cancer Surgery

Analysis finds greater risk of recurrence in those who delay it

THURSDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- For women who have had breast cancer surgery, the question of whether or not to wait before receiving radiation therapy has been answered by new research that suggests that the longer women wait, the greater the chance of cancer recurrence.

The findings, published in the March 3 online edition of BMJ, are based on an analysis of national cancer records for 18,050 American women who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer between 1991 and 2002, at age 65 or older.

All of the women underwent breast-conserving surgery and radiation therapy, but not chemotherapy.

Among the 30 percent of the women in the study who began radiation therapy more than six weeks after surgery, the researchers found that 4 percent went on to develop local recurrences within five years.

The researchers, led by scientists from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, also discovered that the risk of recurrence appeared to decline the sooner radiation treatment began. This suggests that it's a bad idea to wait to begin radiation therapy, and the treatment should start as soon as possible after surgery, the authors of the report noted in a news release from the journal's publisher.

The researchers also found that black and Hispanic women took longer, on average, to begin radiation treatment.

More information has details on radiation therapy.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, March 3, 2010

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