Doctors found that a short course of radiation therapy but at higher doses is more effective in treating early stage breast cancer than conventional radiotherapy.
The newly discovered positive effects of the short-term breast cancer therapy also known as “hypofractionated whole breast cancer irradiation” were found by researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
The research team found that female patients diagnosed with early breast cancer (stages 0-2) complained about fewer side effects when they underwent the new type of therapy than women who tried treating cancer with conventional methods.
Women who underwent radiation therapy for briefer periods of time also reported a higher level of energy that allowed them to take care of their families better than women who received prolonged radiotherapy. Prolonged therapy usually lasts up to six weeks but dosages are smaller.
The new findings raised hopes among doctors and breast cancer patients alike because conventional radiation therapy has some drawbacks that significantly decrease patients’ quality of life.
Dr. Simona Shaitelman, senior author of the study and radiotherapy expert at the cancer center, recently noted that shorter courses of radiation therapy were linked with a higher ability to take care of their family members among breast cancer patients.
Dr. Shaitelman noted that women continue to take care and provide for their family despite a cancer diagnosis. So, a treatment that doesn’t interfere with their lifestyle is most welcome. Study authors recommend that all breast cancer patients diagnosed with an early stage in the 40s or later should opt for shorter, more intense radiation for better results. Dr. Shaitelman believes that long-course treatment should no longer be the standard therapy recommended by doctors.
To this moment, early stage breast cancer patients were recommended to undergo the long-course therapy because in the 1970s and 1980s, that therapy proved to be very effective in treating the disease especially after a lumpectomy.
Since then, doctors assumed that both types of radiotherapy had similar effects, which is simply not true. Study participants in the hypofractionated group reported less frequently skin reactions, nausea, and tiredness that those in the control group.
Dr. Benjamin Smith one of the authors of the study deemed the findings a “great discovery.”
“This study fills in a missing piece in the literature,”
Dr. Smith added.
Another radiation oncologist who was also involved in the research noted that the study’s results changed the way he is looking at shorter course radiation therapy. He recalls that he viewed it as just another option for his breast cancer patients. Now he sees and recommends it as the first option any doctor and patient should take into consideration before pondering on other types of treatment.
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