A shorter course of external beam radiation therapy for early stage breast cancer is both safe and effective, new research shows.


Many women with early breast cancer have breast-sparing surgery (lumpectomy) followed by treatment with external beam radiation five days a week for six to seven weeks.

New Study

This study of 75 patients concluded that intensity modulated radiation treatment (IMRT) can be safely done in four weeks by increasing the daily dose of radiation.

"We know the standard regimen of daily radiation five days a week for six to seven weeks is a tremendous time commitment for women who are often still working or providing family care or both," said study lead author Dr. Gary Freedman, a radiation oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

"Our goal in this research was to reduce the burden of treatment time while maintaining a high level of quality of life," Freedman said.

He and his colleagues measured toxicity, pain and cosmetic outcomes for the women who received the shorter course of IMRT and compared those results to data on women who had the usual course of therapy.


The researchers found little or no difference between the two groups.

"These results demonstrate that the increased daily radiation given to the breast does not result in significant increased side effects, but it allows us to dramatically reduce the time needed for treatment," Freedman explained.

"Longer follow-up is needed to compare the outcomes at five years after treatment," he added.

Hot Cancer Treatment

Heating tumors after radiation is more effective than radiation alone. A study of patients with breast, melanoma or other cancers found that radiation plus heat destroyed tumors in 66% of patients, compared with 42% of those getting only radiation.

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