While clinical trial data support omitting radiation treatments in elderly women with early stage breast cancer, nearly two-thirds of these women continue to receive it, shows a new analysis.
The findings are published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
Results published in 2004 from a large, randomized clinical trial showed that adding radiation therapy to surgery plus tamoxifen does not reduce 5-year recurrence rates or prolong survival in elderly women with early stage tumors. Despite the findings, many doctors still administer radiation to these patients.
"Our findings highlight the fact that it may be challenging for practitioners to incorporate clinical trial data that involves omitting a treatment that was previously considered standard of care," said Dr. Blitzblau. She noted that there could be many reasons for this, including concern about the relatively short duration of follow-up of five years. "If a treatment regimen has been working well, and data are new, there can be concern that de-escalation of treatment may ultimately be shown to worsen outcomes." However, the medical community as a whole is aware that there is a need for more financially efficient medical care that omits unnecessary treatments.
Longer-term results of the trial that were published last year showed that recurrence rates continued to be low in women who forewent radiation. Dr. Blitzbau noted that it will be interesting to see if these findings will have a larger impact on practice patterns.