Recent studies show that in patients with early stage breast cancer, equal results can be obtained with a shorter but stronger course of radiation therapy as compared to the longer course.
As per the recommendation issued by the American Society for Radiation Oncology in 2011, women who are above 50 years with an early stage of breast cancer can have stronger type of radiation therapy known as hypofractionated whole breast radiation.
The 3 week cycle radiation is equally effective as the conventional therapy which lasts for 5 to7 weeks. The shortened radiation therapy also costs less. The findings also bring home the fact that many American patients still receive radiation therapy longer than necessary.
The details of the new study have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Dec. 10. The study was spearheaded by Ezekiel Emanuel, from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and colleagues. It analyzed 15000 women who received radiation therapy post breast-conserving surgery lumpectomy. In Patients who had lumpectomy; radiation lowers the risk of a resurgence of breast cancer later and improves the chances of survival.
The study revealed that in 2013, 34.5% of early stage breast cancer patients, who were 50 years of age, received the shorter radiation treatment. It was higher than the 2008 figures which stood at 10.6%.In younger women the incidence of the short term radiation was 21.2% as compared to 8.1% in 2008.
The study also revealed that the cost of the treatment in older women, who took the short term radiation therapy, was less than the longer conventional treatment. The women who received the shorter therapy spent $28,747 as their medical expenses as compared to conventional treatment which cost $31,641. In younger women the savings were about 12%.
Some Doctors still stick to the conventional regimen because it helped them to earn more money billing for the treatment’s extended course. There is safety concerns associated with the higher dose in spite of the fact that it has been deemed to be as safe as the old conventional treatment regimen.
The researchers wrote “Hypofractionated WBI after breast conserving surgery increased among women with early-stage breast cancer in 14 US commercial health care plans between 2008 and 2013. However, only 34.5% of patients with hypofractionation-endorsed and 21.2% with hypofractionation-permitted early-stage breast cancer received hypofractionated WBI in 2013.”