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

Radiation Plus Surgery Cuts Risk of Breast Cancer Return

Study Shows Benefits of Adding Radiation Therapy to Breast-Conserving Surgery
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 20, 2011 -- Women with early breast cancer often consider breast-conserving surgery in which a doctor removes the tumor but spares the rest of the breast. But they may worry that their cancer is more likely to come back if they don't remove the entire breast.

New research shows that adding radiation therapy to breast-conserving surgery halves the chance that cancer will come back and reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer, when compared to the breast-conserving surgery alone.

The study is published in TheLancet.

Breast cancer experts tell WebMD that the new findings should provide some peace of mind for women with early breast cancer who choose breast-conserving surgery plus radiation over mastectomy -- the complete removal of the breast or breasts.

In 2011, an estimated 230,480 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. About 39,520 women will die from the disease in 2011.

The new study included close to 11,000 women who took part in 17 studies. The women were followed for about 10 years on average.

After 10 years, 35% of women who had breast-conserving surgery without radiation had a breast cancer recurrence. By comparison, 19% of women who had radiation after their breast-sparing surgery experienced a recurrence.

The study also looked at overall survival. After 15 years, 25% of women who did not have radiation had died from breast cancer, compared with 21% of these women who had both surgery and radiation. Adding radiation to treatment reduced the rate of dying from breast cancer by one-sixth, the study shows.

"For breast cancer patients treated with a lumpectomy, the addition of radiation significantly reduces the chance of the cancer coming back and most importantly improves the overall chance of ... being cured," says Thomas A. Buchholz, MD, in an email.

Buchholz, a professor and chair of the department of radiation oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, wrote an editorial that's published with the new study.

"The findings indicated conclusively the high benefits of radiation after lumpectomy and that these benefits persist over the entire life span of the patient. The study clearly shows that treatment at the time of diagnosis with radiation is a much better strategy than saving the treatment and using it for the patients at the time of a recurrence."

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