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Shorter Breast Cancer Therapy With Radiation Possible

Posted Nov 13 2009 12:00am
Two separate breast cancer research studies presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology suggest that shorter breast cancer radiation therapy might be just as effective as the current standard radiation therapy of 6 - 7 weeks.

One study conducted at the Fox Chase Cancer Center used Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy to treat 75 patients who had breast-conserving surgery for early-stage breast cancer.  For this study, patients received a higher than normal dose of radiation therapy (2.25 Gy/day versus 2.0 Gy/day) for a shorter period of time than normal (20 days [4 weeks] versus 30-35 days [6-7 weeks]).  The high-dose radiation boost (2.8 Gy/day) given directly to the lumpectomy site was delivered during the same 4 weeks rather than afterwards, helping to shorten the length of radiation treatment.

The second study was conducted at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and used Accelerated Hypofractionated Whole Breast Irradition to treat 105 women with early-stage breast cancer.  In this study, breast cancer patients received an even higher dose of radiation (2.7 Gy/day) for an even shorter period of time (15 days) than the study described above.  Like the Fox Chase study, this study administered the boost dose (3 Gy/day) during the same 3 weeks.

Both studies reported excellent results.  The doses were well tolerated by the patients and negative cosmetic side effects were apparently minimal.  Risk of breast cancer recurrence was only 4% in the Fox Chase Cancer Center study over a 5 year period and no relapses were observed within the first two years of the Beth Israel Medical Center study, which also reported a 95% 5-year survival rate.

While larger clinical trials will likely need to be conducted to confirm both the effectiveness of these treatments and patient acceptability, the possibility of breast cancer radiation therapy that is shorter and just as effective as the current therapy is reason for optimism.  While there is no such thing as 'convenient' breast cancer therapy, reducing the time that someone has to dedicate to radiation treatments could reduce the amount of work missed and reduce treatment payments.  That is something that is probably important to everyone, particularly with the typical busy schedules we all keep.

While breakthroughs in breast cancer therapy like these are exciting and desperately needed, taking measures to reduce breast cancer risk is also important.  To discover some of the things you can do to lower your breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at www.fightBCnow.com.
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