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
WebMD

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
WebMD

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
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    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
A
A
A

Shorter Breast Cancer Treatment Works

Doctors Able to Shave 2 Weeks off Radiation Therapy With Good Results
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 13, 2007 (San Antonio) -- A more convenient three-week course of radiation works just as well as the five-week schedule that is typically given to women after breast-conserving surgery for breast cancer, researchers report.

In a study of more than 1,000 women, only 6.2% of those who got the short course of radiation had cancer recur in the same breast over the next 10 years, compared with 6.7% of those who got the conventional five weeks of radiation. The difference was so small, however, that it could have been due to chance.

There was also no difference between the two groups in terms of survival, with 84% of those in both groups alive at 10 years, says researcher Timothy Whelan, MD, of the Hamilton Regional Cancer Center in Ontario, Canada.

The two schedules were also associated with a similar, low rate of skin reactions and other side effects, Whelan says.

Shorter Course More Convenient

Whelan says there's been a lot of interest in trying to shorten the course of radiation due to convenience and lower cost, but that long-term effects have been a concern.

He tells WebMD that he hopes the 10-year study will alleviate the concerns and encourage more U.S. doctors to offer women the short course.

"There are important advantages to women who want to be treated in a shorter period of time," Whelan says.

Phillip Devlin, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School, says he already offers the short course to women who, for reasons of travel or cost, can't get five weeks of treatment.

"I think we'll continue to see its use pick up," he tells WebMD. "In addition to shorter duration of treatment time, it means lower costs and less time out from work and family."

The study, presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, involved 1,234 women who had undergone breast-conserving surgery. They were randomly assigned to either three weeks or five weeks of radiation therapy.

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
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW