Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Radiation Cuts Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence by Two-Thirds


Heart-related problems caused the deaths of most of the women who died from something other than breast cancer. The risk of dying from a cause other than breast cancer was lowest for women who were 50 and younger at the time of their breast-cancer diagnosis, and highest for women who were 60-69 at that time.

"For the younger women, even with the older radiotherapy regimens, the benefits outweigh the risks," Collins says. "For older women or for women with very low risk of recurrence, it's not clear that the benefits outweigh the risks seen in these studies."

Many of the women studied who were given radiation would probably receive chemotherapy and tamoxifen, a drug used to treat and prevent recurrence of breast cancer, if they were diagnosed today, John M. Kurtz, MD, says in an editorial accompanying the study. Kurtz, of University Hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, says newer studies -- specifically, two large Danish trials -- show that modern radiation techniques can protect against the recurrence of breast cancer and against death from breast cancer, while also reducing the risk of death caused by damage to the heart and blood vessels.

Collins says that while the newer studies show promise, researchers will need to follow the women's progress for another five to 10 years before they can be certain that the newer radiation methods reduce the risks to the heart and surrounding structures. More important, he says, is the need to consider the overall benefit to the patient.

The good news is that this study proves that radiation works, says Lawrence Solin, MD, an expert who commented on the findings for WebMD.

"This is an important lesson ... that local therapy can cure patients, but it has to be done right, and today we think we have better techniques to do that," says Solin, a professor of radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. "The message for patients is that they need to be certain they're being treated in a center with high-quality technical radiotherapy."

Vital Information:

  • Women who receive radiation therapy for early-stage breast cancer following surgery have a lower rate of cancer recurrence, according to a new study.
  • Radiation treatment was associated with a slightly lower overall survival rate, but researchers believe this is because the data is from the 1960s to 1980s.
  • Today, radiation techniques are better, as medical professionals can avoid exposing the heart and surrounding structures to radiation beams.
1 | 2

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow