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Is this breakthrough in early stage breast cancer treatment?


A short and powerful dosage of radiation therapy would be effective to treat early stage breast cancer patients, says a new study conducted by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers in Houston. This approach is also called as hypofractionated whole breast cancer irradiation in medical terms.breast-cancer-chemotherapy

According to the study, women with breast cancer had fewer side effects and better quality of life with four weeks of high dosage radiation treatment than patients with six weeks of low dosage treatment.

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This study has shown a silver lining for breast cancer patients and researchers across the globe will experiment more with such studies to get good results. However, recent and similar studies by other researchers proved to be neutral in the results – similar results from the longer period with low dosage and shorter period with high dosage chemotherapy.

Author of the study Dr. Simona Shaitelman, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s professor of radiation oncology, said in a statement:

“Patients who received the shorter course reported less difficulty in caring for their families’ needs. This is a major priority for women undergoing breast cancer radiation. The take-home message is that for women 40 and older with early-stage breast cancer, shorter, higher-dose radiation should be the standard of care. For too long, longer-course treatment has been the standard.”

According to the reports, this study is first of its kind on analyzing the effect of treatments on quality of life of the patients by comparing two regimens.

Till now, Chemotherapy for breast cancer patients has been using radiation over a longer period with smaller doses (fractionation for whole breast irradiation). The studies on breast cancer conducted during 70s and 80s showed radiation and lumpectomy were effective, similar to mastectomy.

This method has been widely employed in Canada and Great Britain, where studies showed comparable rates of overall survival and tumor control in a decade, so far.

“They assumed that all of the side effects would be the same, it’s the same amount of radiation it’s just given at a different time course,” says Dr. Theresa Schwartz, SLU Care breast cancer surgeon, “But the people on the shorter course of radiation actually had less side effects with less skin irritation or less fatigue, then people that had a longer course of radiation,” she added.

This is a great discovery. As study author Dr. Benjamin Smith notes: “This study fills in a missing piece in the literature.” The MD Anderson associate professor of radiation oncology goes on to say, “No longer do I regard the shorter course of treatment as just an option for patients, but rather the preferred starting point for discussion with patients if they need whole breast radiation.”

The research has been published in JAMA Oncology.

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