Targeted breast cancer treatment results in fewer side effects, research claims
More targeted radiotherapy treatment for breast cancer offers a quality of life that is as good as standard radiotherapy, according to research conducted at University Hospital Würzburg, Germany.
This treatment uses small tubes to deliver a higher dose of radiotherapy directly to the site of the tumour over a shorter period of time, which has previously been found to be more effective than treating the entire breast. The technique also makes it easier to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure to other parts of the body, such as the heart and lungs. Researchers analysed more than 600 women at 16 hospitals across Europe who all had surgery to remove an early stage tumour. Around half of the women received whole breast radiotherapy, while accelerated partial breast irradiation treatment was given to the other half. They found that women's quality of life was equally good in both groups and remained so over the five years. However, women who received whole breast treatment reported worse symptoms of breast swelling and pain, and skin problems of the breast, especially immediately after treatment and three months later. Swelling and discomfort in the arm was also worse in the women given standard treatment. Dr Rebekka Schäfer, a clinician in the department of radiation oncology at University Hospital Würzburg, believes more targeted radiotherapy would be a preferable option for patients who would have difficulty managing a six-week treatment schedule. They may have to travel a long way to reach hospital, or they may wish to return to work as soon as possible, so they might prefer a treatment that can be carried out in a week or less,” she commented. "More and more women are surviving breast cancer for longer and longer, so we need to be sure that treatments do not detract from their quality of life in the long term.” A ten-year follow-up of women in the trial will be conducted to assess whether quality of life has remained good and to see if there is any difference in cancer recurrence between the two treatments.