December 10, 2014
Many Breast Cancer Patients Get Excess Radiation, Study Says
Dr. Stephanie Bernik, Chief, Surgical Oncology, North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital
Many studies have affirmed that a newer, shorter course of radiation therapy for early-stage breast cancer works just as well as a longer course.
New research suggests, however, that many U.S. patients still get radiation ther-apy for much longer than they need to.
The analysis of data involving millions of women found that two-thirds of patients who've had breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) undergo six to seven weeks of radiation therapy.
Multiple studies suggest that an alternative course of only three weeks of higher-dose radiation, or hypofractionated whole breast radiation, is just as effective, more convenient and cheaper than longer, conventional radiation therapy, according to the study authors.
The newer type of radiation therapy is supported by four studies and practice guidelines from the American Society for Radiation Oncology, the researchers noted. The study was published in yesterday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The reasons behind the continued overuse of the longer course of radiation treatment "need to be investigated," said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.