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

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

Less Radiation for Breast Cancer Works

New Method Can Shave 2 to 3 Weeks off of Conventional Radiation Therapy
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 4, 2007 (Chicago) -- A new way of delivering radiation can safely shave two to three weeks off the conventional treatment of women with early breast cancer, a European study suggests.

“The findings suggest that women can safely undergo a less demanding course of radiation therapy without appearing to increase their risk of recurrence,” says researcher John A. Dewar, MD, a clinical oncologist at the University of Dundee in Scotland.

Additionally, the short course appears to cause fewer side effects, including breast shrinkage or swelling, and hardening of the breast tissue, he tells WebMD.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Low Breast Cancer Recurrence Rates in All Groups

The study included nearly 4,500 women that had successfully undergone surgery to remove their breast tumors.

All the women received surgery and then underwent conventional external beam radiation therapy, designed to prevent recurrences. The method involves aiming a beam of X-ray radiation through the chest and under the arm to kill cancer cells.

Some women received the standard treatment of 50 Grays, the unit used to measure radiation, in 25 treatments spread over five weeks.

The others were given about 40 Grays -- either in 15 treatments over three weeks or in 13 treatments every other day for five weeks.

By about five years later, cancer had come back in 5% or fewer of women in all the groups.

Finding Potentially Practice-Changing

The results are “very exciting news for our patients,” some of whom have to travel hundreds of miles to receive the conventional radiation regimen, says Julie Gralow, MD, assistant professor of oncology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

She notes that in the U.S., women are often given a booster, bringing the total length of therapy to six to seven weeks.

“This is very disruptive to your life,” Gralow tells WebMD. “If we can give less radiation, either by giving it over three weeks or by giving it every other day, that’s a big advantage.”

Gralow says she believes the findings are potentially practice-changing.

Some of the radiation oncologists at her institution have already indicated that they think it’s a good idea, she says. Plus, “patients will push for it.”

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