New Study: Breast Cancer Treatment Shown To Cause Less Side Effects

A new study on breast cancer treatment was published this week.

The new study was published on August 6 in the medical journal JAMA Oncology. The study, “Acute and Short-term Toxic Effects of Conventionally Fractionated vs Hypofractionated Whole-Breast Irradiation: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” was conducted by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers and examined the differences between two radiation treatments.

Women suffering from breast cancer generally get a treatment that includes smaller doses of radiation over a longer period of time. According to the new study, that’s not the most efficient, or effective, treatment available.

“The take-home message is that for women 40 and older with early-stage breast cancer, shorter, higher-dose radiation should be the standard of care,” said Dr. Simona Shaitelman, the first author of the study and a professor of radiation oncology. “For too long, longer-course treatment has been the standard.”

Known as hypofractionated whole-breast cancer irradiation, the method of using a shorter course of high dose radiation has been around for a while. It simply hasn’t been the preferred method due to less knowledge about the effects of such radiation treatments.

Harvard-affiliated doctors, Shyam Tangturi and Jennifer Bellon, wrote that, “with comparable tumor control, lower costs, and reduced morbidity, hypofractionation should be strongly considered for the majority of patients with early-stage [breast cancer].”

Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill hospital in New York added that the breast cancer treatment study “suggests that women who undergo the accelerated radiation not only benefit from the shorter length of time for treatment, but they also suffer less severe side effects.”

“Women should discuss with their doctor if they are candidates for this type of therapy due to the benefits it offers,” Bernik went on to say.

The new study included roughly 300 women with breast cancer ranging between stage zero and stage two. All of the candidates were over 39 and had undergone a lumpectomy. Those patients were then randomly assigned conventional radiation or hypofractionated radiation.

It was found that the women treated with hypofractionated radiation had less side effects (i.e. breast pain, eczema, fatigue, and skin darkening). Six months into the treatments, those undergoing the higher dosing of radiation reported less fatigue and were able to take care of their families with less issue.

“This study fills in a missing piece in the literature,” Dr. Benjamin Smith, professor of radiation oncology and one of the authors of the breast cancer treatment study said. “No longer do I regard the shorter course of treatment as just an option for patients, but rather the preferred starting point for discussion with patients if they need whole breast radiation.”

[Image courtesy of Fox]