Women Receiving Longer Radiation Therapy than Necessary

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has concluded that about two-thirds of women who undergo a lumpectomy to treat breast cancer receive radiation therapy for longer than necessary. Radiation is used after a lumpectomy to reduce the likelihood of cancer returning and to increase survival rates. Traditional radiation treatment following lumpectomies typically lasts five to seven weeks. However, the JAMA study, along with various other tests and studies indicate that a shorter, more intense three to four week treatment of radiation is just as effective.

Studies have also found that women prefer to receive shorter courses of radiation treatment, and that shorter treatment is less expensive. Considering that about 60% to 75% of women with breast cancer receive lumpectomies, there is significant potential for increased patient satisfaction and reduced costs by offering shorter radiation therapy. Unfortunately, years of ingrained practice and hesitancy to change a course of treatment used for years may slow the rate in which shorter radiation therapy is used on lumpectomy patients. However, due to this study and others like it, this course of treatment will likely become more common over time.

Source: Kolata, Gina. “Long Radiation Treatments Called Unnecessary in Many Breast Cancer Cases.”  The New York Times. 10 December 2014.