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Shorter, More Intense Radiation OK for Some Breast Cancers
Date:11/4/2009

Three-week course comparable to six-week treatment, researchers find

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- A shorter, more intense course of whole-breast radiation works as well as the traditional six-week course, at least for some early-stage breast cancers, a new study shows.

"This concept of a shorter length of treatment is gaining acceptance," said Dr. Manjeet Chadha, associate chair of radiation oncology at Beth Israel Medical Center and associate professor of radiation oncology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, both in New York City. Chadha led the study and is scheduled to present the results Wednesday at the American Society for Radiation Oncology annual meeting, in Chicago.

Researchers previously have tried to investigate whether they can alter the duration of radiation therapy or the volume, Chadha said. "My study focuses on the duration of it," she said.

In her three-week treatment -- called accelerated hypofractionated whole breast irradiation -- a woman gets the entire affected breast irradiated and receives a ''boost,'' or extra dose, at the site where the tumor was removed. Other approaches include giving a boost dose after the entire radiation treatment to the whole breast is completed.

Chadha's study is ongoing, but she planned to report on 122 patients with early-stage breast cancers who underwent lumpectomies followed by the accelerated treatment. They were then tracked for a median of two and a half years (half followed longer, half less). The patients' median age was 66.

No relapses were noted, and the three-year survival rate was nearly 95 percent, Chadha said.

''It sounds encouraging," she said of her results. To further evaluate the accelerated treatment, she compared the first 50 patients on the briefer approach to a matched group of 70 patients who got the more traditional six-week radiation treatment.

Side effects, such as skin irritation a
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