How Effective is Radiation for the Early Stages of Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer physicians are sharply separated due to a new radiation technique that costs less and is more convenient than conventional therapy.

The practice identified as intraoperative radiation therapy, or IORT, consist of administering a single dose of radiation at the same time a patient is having lumpectomy surgery to remove a tumor. A large, randomized controlled trial came to the result that IORT has fewer side effects and appears to prevent the return of cancer almost as effective as traditional treatment, in which patients undergo radiation sessions five days a week for up to seven weeks

Oncologist with different opinions have been arguing over the conclusion in letters and editorials in major medical journals, including the Lancet and BMJ. Some critics note that the study found women who had IORT encounter double the amount of risk of a cancer recurrence in contrast with traditional radiation.

Some also criticize the design of the IORT study and say patients have not been followed long enough to make a conclusion. “A lot of us are scratching our heads as to why [IORT] would be appropriate,” stated David Wazer, chair of radiation oncology located at Brown and Tufts medical schools.

However, proponents of IORT state the risk of tumors returning with either radiation treatment over five years is small and, IORT’s advantages could outweigh the higher risk of recurrence for some patients. “A lot of women who hear about this option make an informed decision to use it,” stated Stephen Grobmyer, director of the breast center at the Cleveland Clinic, which is gathering detailed information on nearly 1,000 patients who have had the treatment at 19 U.S. centers.

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