The new study adds some valuable information for doctors trying to decide for individual women which radiation treatment approach might be best, said Dr. Nayana Vora, a professor of radiation oncology and associate member of the developmental cancer therapeutics program at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif.
''It's a short follow-up,'' she said, noting that some side effects may surface later. But, she noted that a study outside the United States that looked at the briefer treatments has followed patients for up to 12 years with results similar to Chadha's study.
''Very few studies have been documented in the U.S. with external whole beam [to the whole breast] and a concomitant boost," Vora said. ''It tell us that, yes, patients can be treated with a short course of radiation treatment. Will it become the standard of care? I don't know."
While Vora typically offers her patients the six-week treatment unless they can't commit to that time period because of transportation problem or other obstacles, she said she now may consider the shorter treatment.
In another study to be presented at the oncology meeting, researchers reported that breast cancer patients who have a mastectomy and then receive radiation to the lymph nodes behind the breast bone (the internal mammary lymph nodes) do not live longer than those who don't get those nodes treated.
The study evaluated 1,334 women with stage 1 or 2 breast cancers that had spread to the axillary lymph nodes under the arms or whose original tumor was in a central, internal location. All got radiation to the chest wall and nodes above the collar bone. But half got the internal mammary radiation and half did not.
After a decade, survival differences between the groups were
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