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Radiation Not Needed in Many Older Breast Cancer Patients

No added benefit over surgery plus tamoxifen alone in those 70-plus with early stage disease, study finds

FRIDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- A new study provides more support for the idea of allowing women aged 70 and older with early stage breast cancer to avoid radiation treatment if they have undergone a lumpectomy and treatment with the drug tamoxifen.

"The standard of care for women 70 and older with very small tumors that are estrogen-positive and node-negative -- the largest group of breast cancer patients in this age group -- had been lumpectomy and radiation," study lead author Dr. Kevin Hughes, co-director of the Avon Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a news release.

"Earlier reports of this study with shorter median follow-up have shown the risk of recurrence without radiation to be only marginally worse than with radiation, but there was concern that longer follow-up would show a blossoming of recurrences," he said. "This study confirms that for older women with early stage breast cancer, lumpectomy without radiation is a viable alternative, and tamoxifen may replace the need for radiation."

It has been standard for younger women with early stage breast cancer to receive radiation therapy after a lumpectomy.

The researchers reached their conclusions after randomly assigning 636 women with early stage breast cancer -- all 70 or older -- to receive tamoxifen (319 patients), or tamoxifen plus radiation (317 patients).

After a median follow-up of more than 10 years, the researchers found that the risk of recurrence was lower among those who received both treatments (2 percent) compared with those who received the drug alone (8 percent). But the two groups didn't differ significantly in terms of overall survival and risk of dying from breast cancer.

The findings were released May 20 and the study is to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, June 4 to 8 in Chicago.

More information

For more about breast cancer, visit .

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Society of Clinical Oncology, news release, May 20, 2010

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