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Whole Breast Irradiation vs. Partial Breast Irradiation

Posted Mar 31 2010 7:12am
Breast cancer treatment options continue to be become more varied and available for breast cancer patients.  Partial breast irradiation is a promising form of radiotherapy that typically requires shorter treatment periods (days versus weeks); however, the full ramifications of this newer technique on breast cancer outcomes are still under investigation.

One recent breast cancer study suggests that there might still be some concern regarding the use of partial breast irradiation.  This recent study reviewed and analyzed published, randomized clinical trials that compared partial breast irradiation to whole breast irradiation in order to assess potential differences in breast cancer outcomes.  The results of this analysis showed that there were no substantial differences between these two breast cancer radiation therapies when it came to supraclavicular (above the collar bone) breast cancer recurrence, distant metastasis, and overall survival.  However, this analysis suggested that patients undergoing partial breast irradiation were 2 times more likely to experience local breast cancer recurrence and were at about a 3-fold increased risk for axillary (underarm) recurrence.

This study reports that there were both positives and negatives associated with partial breast irradiation.  While breast cancer patients undergoing partial breast irradiation appeared to be at greater risk for local and axillary recurrence, this increased risk for recurrence did not appear to negatively impact breast cancer survival or risk for distant metastasis.  In a press release associated with a cancer meeting in 2009 when this study was first presented, the author indicated that this increased risk of breast cancer recurrence might have been due to the inappropriate study designs where a field of radiation was used that might have lead to missing areas of disease during the radiotherapy.  Therefore, it is possible that the risk for recurrence using partial breast irradiation might be slightly overinflated.  While it appears that partial breast irradiation might be a viable alternative to whole breast irradiation, additional research regarding the risk of breast cancer recurrence will likely be needed before partial breast irradiation becomes widely used.  Nonetheless, this might be one treatment option for some breast cancer patients to discuss with their physician.

While the medical community continues to optimize breast cancer therapy in order to prevent breast cancer from returning, there are steps we can take to reduce our risk of ever getting breast cancer.  To learn more about these simple diet and lifestyle changes, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at www.fightBCnow.com .
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