Patients with breast cancer can undergo modern breast radiation therapy without fear and misconceptions, finds a new study. Most patients who went through radiation therapy earlier have agreed that their initial negative impressions were unfounded as their actual experiences were better than expected. The findings of the study are published in the journal CANCER .
Over the past 20 years, there have been significant advances in how radiation therapy for breast cancer is delivered, allowing clinicians to spare critical organs, create an individual radiation plan for each patient, and deliver radiation in more convenient schedules. Nonetheless, many patients have fears and misconceptions about radiation therapy.
To get a better sense of patients' views concerning modern radiation therapy, a team led by Susan McCloskey, MD, MSHS, and Narek Shaverdian, MD, of the University of California Los Angeles, surveyed 502 patients who were treated for breast cancer between 2012 and 2016. Among the 327 patients who responded to the survey, 83 percent underwent breast conservation therapy (defined as lumpectomy and radiation therapy).
Sixty-eight percent of surveyed patients stated that they initially had little to no knowledge about radiation therapy; however, 47 percent reported that they had heard frightening stories about it. Only 2 percent of patients agreed that the negative stories they previously heard about radiation therapy were actually true. Also, 83 percent reported that short-term radiation side effects--such as breast pain, work limitations, and family disruptions--were less than or as expected, and 84 percent of patients said this about long-term side effects.
The survey revealed that 93 percent of breast conservation patients and 81 percent of mastectomy patients agreed with the statement "If future patients knew the real truth about radiation therapy, they would be less scared about treatment."
"The word radiation itself sounds frightening and is associated with many negative news stories, but the implications of this study are that, in actuality, radiation therapy for breast cancer is a much better treatment experience than perceived," said Dr. McCloskey. "We hope these real-world data from the voices of past patients can give future patients a better understanding of modern breast radiation therapy when making treatment decisions."