Shorter intense radiation therapy for breast cancer

A new study has revealed data that says women with early stage breast cancer could benefit from a shorter, more intense course of radiation therapy.

The Houston study led by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers found that when patients with early stage breast cancer are subjected to higher doses of whole breast radiation over a four week period tend to experience fewer and lessened side effects as well as an increased overall quality of life in comparison to the patients that received the normal lower doses over six weeks of time, according to

Other studies that have attempted the same dosing regimens have not found any difference in rates of recurrence or survival. “Patients who received the shorter course reported less difficulty in caring for their families’ needs,” Dr. Simona Shaitelman, a professor of radiation oncology and the study’s first author, said. “Most are busy working mothers, working inside or outside the home, and are juggling a number of priorities. It’s paramount that we address this need.”

Shitelman added that the data from the new study should be shared openly with patients to offer the shorter, more intense dose, as an option.

The study conducted and its findings were published in JAMA Oncology.

When radiation therapy is provided, it is generally administered in small doses over a long period of time. The method is known as conventionally fractionated whole breast irradiation.

At this time, the American Society of Radiation Oncology said that only one-third of patients who should undergo the shorter, higher-dose option are actually receiving it.

The more common longer treatment is a holdover from the past decades when at that time, shorter-dosed intense treatments were proven to fail. Shaitelman said that those earlier studies were conducted with technologies that have long been outdated. The studies conducted recently in the United Kingdom and Canada however have been privy to using the most advanced technologies available, have still shown equal rates of recurrence and survival.

But the new studies should, she said, U.S., give radiation oncologists the power to offer the shorter, intense treatment, but have been slow to adopt the patient-friendlier practice.


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