Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Shaitelman: Our study compared two different radiation therapy regimens for women with early stage breast cancer and examined the acute and short term toxicities associated with these two different treatments. The treatments compared a shorter versus a longer course of whole breast irradiation, both delivered with a tumor bed boost. Although prior published data supported giving a shorter course regimen, this was being used only in about one third of appropriate women in the United States, in part because of concerns regarding toxicities, restricted tumor enrollment in the earlier studies, as well as the earlier lack of incorporation of a tumor bed boost (which is standard and known to decrease the risk of tumor recurrence).
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Dr. Shaitelman: A total of 287 patients were enrolled, age 40 years and older, with stage 0-II breast cancer. 76% of patients in the study were overweight or obese (in comparison with previous studies that had excluded patients with a larger body mass index). We found that during radiation treatment, women with the shorter course regimen had less breast pain, dermatitis, hyperpigmentation, and fatigue. At six months, by both physician assessment and patient report, patients treated with the shorter regimen had less fatigue. Patients treated with the shorter course regimen also reported having a better ability to care for the needs of their family compared to those patients treated with the longer course regimen.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Shaitelman: We believe that for women with early stage breast cancer, the shorter course regimen should be the starting point for discussions about whole breast radiation. As breast cancer outcomes continue to improve, focusing on how our treatments impact patients’ quality of life in both the short and long-term will be increasingly important.
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Simona F. Shaitelman, MD, EdM (2015). Shorter Radiation Course For Early Breast Cancer Results In Better Quality of Life