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

Trimming Breast Cancer Radiation Time

Stronger Doses Less Often May Be OK, Study Suggests
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 18, 2008 -- A shorter, stronger schedule of breast cancer radiation treatment may be comparable to standard treatment, two new studies show.

But the researchers aren't ready to cut down breast cancer radiation recommendations just yet. First, they want to check for long-term side effects.

The new studies, called the START (Standardization of Breast Radiotherapy) trials, included more than 4,400 U.K. women with breast cancer.

The women had already gotten breast cancer surgery. They all got radiation to help prevent breast cancer recurrence.

Some of the women got a standard, five-week course of radiation therapy. Others followed one of three other radiation plans which used stronger doses less often for three or five weeks.

The women were followed for up to eight years. During that time, they got annual checkups to screen for recurrence and radiation-related changes in normal breast tissue.

Breast Cancer Radiation: How Strong, How Long?

The odds of relapse and breast changes (such as breast appearance) were equally low with both radiation schedules.

Longer studies lasting 15-20 years are needed to track the long-term safety of stronger, shorter radiation doses, note the researchers. They included clinical oncology professor John Yarnold, MD, of the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, England.

An editorial published with the studies agrees that more research is needed.

"We realize that [stronger, shorter radiation] is convenient for patients, because it reduces the number of visits to radiotherapy departments and waiting lists in several cancer centers," the editorial states.

"Nevertheless, we have to wait for data on longer follow-up before final conclusions can be drawn from the START trials."

Professor Harry Bartelink, MD, PhD, chairman of the Netherlands Cancer Institute's radiotherapy division, wrote the editorial.

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