Are side effects of breast cancer treatment avoidable?
When women are diagnosed with breast cancer, radiation therapy is often used for treatment. However, such radiation often has strong side effects. Researchers have now found that unpleasant side effects can be avoided if more targeted radiation or lower radiation doses are used without endangering treatment success.
- Targeted radiation to the affected area of the breast can work effectively and reduce side effects.
- Even a lower dose of radiation can avoid side effects and still work effectively.
- Less aggressive breast treatment reduces permanent disfigurement.
Scientists at Cambridge University and the Institute of Cancer Research in London found in their current study that targeted treatment for breast cancer with a lower radiation dose leads to fewer side effects for the patient. The doctors presented the results of their study at this year's European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona.
These two treatment approaches are promising
Thousands of breast cancer patients could be spared the unpleasant side effects of radiation therapy if medical professionals would use more targeted treatment with lower radiation doses. If only the tumor is irradiated, and not the entire breast of the affected woman, the effectiveness of the treatment against cancer is retained, but the side effects are reduced, the experts explain. There was a second approach to treatment. The entire breast was irradiated, but with a lower radiation dose. This form of treatment was just as effective and also reduced the side effects.
What are the side effects?
The less aggressive treatment has been shown to reduce the permanent disfigurement of the breasts. One of the main side effects of radiation therapy is the general change in the chest picture. Women also report pain, tissue hardening, tenderness, and fluid retention. Each of these side effects can be reduced with targeted or low-dose treatment, the doctors explain. In England alone, more than 38,000 women receive breast cancer radiation therapy each year. The procedure is performed after surgical removal of a tumor and is designed to eradicate all remaining cancer cells.
1,200 subjects were examined closely
For their study, the researchers analyzed treatment with lower doses and more targeted radiation in 1,200 women in 41 British hospitals. These women were medically monitored for a period of five years. The experts found no difference in the rates of cancer recurrence in the less aggressive approaches and the patients reported significantly fewer side effects.
Hopefully radiation therapy will lead to fewer side effects in the future
The results are particularly important for women who are offered either radiation therapy for the entire breast or radiation therapy for certain parts of the breast, explains study author Dr. Indrani Bhattacharya from the Institute of Cancer Research in a press release. Radiation therapy is never pleasant, but the results may result in fewer patients suffering from the traumatic side effects of radiation. (as)