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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Targeted Radiation Cuts Breast Cancer Relapse

Researchers Say Balloon Brachytherapy Causes Fewer Side Effects
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 18, 2005 (Denver) -- A gentler, more targeted type of radiation therapy may help prevent breast cancer from coming back, researchers report.

In a study of 43 women with early-stage breast cancer who underwent the new procedure, none relapsed over the next four years, says Martin Keisch, MD. Keisch is a radiation oncologist at Mount Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami Beach, Fla.

There were no serious long-term side effects, and 85% of women rated the cosmetic results as "good to excellent," he tells WebMD.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.

Less Radiation, Fewer Doctor Visits

The researchers studied women with early-stage breast cancer who were undergoing breast-conserving surgery, in which doctors remove only the tumor rather than the entire breast. Most of these women are then given radiation therapy to kill off any cancerous cells that might be left behind.

Traditionally, doctors have used radiation therapy on the entire breast. In contrast, the new procedure, a type of limited-field radiation therapy, targets the radiation to the area of the breast once occupied by the tumor, Keisch says.

There are a handful of advantages to focused therapy, he says.

First and foremost is a lower risk of long-term side effects. "That's the main reason to do this," Keisch says. Only about one-fourth as much healthy tissue is exposed to radiation, which can damage healthy cells and even cause secondary cancers years down the road.

Also, women only have to come in for 10 treatments over five days, he says. In contrast, traditional radiation requires treatment for several weeks.

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