Penn Medicine researchers have found that two-thirds of women treated for early-stage breast cancer in the U.S. receive longer radiation therapy than necessary.
Conventional whole breast radiation, given daily over five to seven weeks, has been the mainstay of treatment in the U.S. for decades. It reduces local recurrence and improves overall survival after breast conserving surgery. Hypofractionated radiation involves higher doses of radiation given over just three to four weeks. Four randomized trials and 2011 practice guidelines from the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) suggest that hypofractionated radiation is clinically equivalent to longer duration radiation in curing early-stage breast cancer, has similar side effects, is more cost effective, convenient for patients, and allows patients to return to work or home sooner.
Senior author Emanuel, chairman of Penn's Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy and a breast oncologist said, "Hypofractionated radiation is high-value care and high-quality breast cancer treatment that saves the health care system money. It's a win-win. And yet, only a third or fewer women are getting it in the U.S., while in other countries over 70 percent of women receive hypofractionated treatment."
The study is published in JAMA.