Shorter Breast Cancer Treatment Works
Doctors Able to Shave 2 Weeks off Radiation Therapy With Good Results
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
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
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.