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Study Finds Shorter Intensive Radiation Therapy Effective In Treating Early-Stage Breast Cancer

25 Sep 2008  

Three weeks of intensive radiation therapy is as effective as or more effective than the standard five weeks of therapy in the treatment of early-stage breast cancer, according to a study presented on Monday at a meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology in Boston, Long Island Newsday reports (Ricks, Long Island Newsday, 9/22).

The study, led by Tim Whelan of McMaster University, tracked 1,234 Canadian women who began treatment for breast cancer at one of eight hospitals from 1993 to 1996 (Grady, New York Times, 9/23). Half of participants underwent three weeks of daily treatments that last 15 minutes each, and half underwent standard radiation therapy, which lasts five weeks. After 10 to 12 years, the study found low rates of cancer recurrence -- 6.2% for participants who underwent the accelerated therapy and 6.7% for those who underwent standard therapy (Fox, Reuters, 9/22).

The study also found that about 70% of participants in both groups had a "good or excellent cosmetic outcome," with little breast discoloration, shrinkage or scarring from the radiation (New York Times, 9/23). The accelerated therapy also cost two-thirds less than the standard therapy, according to the study (Long Island Newsday, 9/22).


According to the Times, the results of the study "provide some of the strongest evidence yet that radiation schedules can safely be shortened to make life easier for patients and to let clinics reduce their waiting lists and treat more women without buying more machines" and might lead to changes in treatment practices in the U.S. (New York Times, 9/23). Some U.S. hospitals offer the accelerated radiation therapy, but use of the treatment is more common in Canada and Europe (Long Island Newsday, 9/22). Anthony Zietman, a radiation oncologist at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and president-elect of ASTRO, said, "We've really got to give it serious consideration in the United States" (New York Times, 9/23).

Reprinted with kind permission from You can view the entire Daily Women's Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women's Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families, published by The Advisory Board Company.

© 2008 The Advisory Board Company. All rights reserved.

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