Radiotherapy boost for women with early-stage breast cancer offers reduced risk of the disease returning
- Early stage breast cancer involves removing the milk ducts to stop its spread
- Scientists believe radiotherapy now reduces the risk of the cancer returning
- Some women with aggressive cells are offered a three-week course of radiation
- Fewer than 3pc of those given radiotherapy saw cancer returning in five years
Giving women with early-stage breast cancer an extra boost of radiotherapy can reduce the risk of the disease coming back, a study has found.
Those with the earliest form of cancer, where the diseased cells are contained within the milk ducts, usually undergo surgery to remove the cells.
Some women with cells that are fast-multiplying and likely to spread are offered a three-week course of radiotherapy to kill any remaining disease.
Women with early-stage breast cancer can reduce the chance of the disease returning if they receive a boost of radiotherapy
But a team of international cancer experts have found that an extra five doses at the end of treatment keeps women cancer-free for longer
But a team of international cancer experts have found that an extra five doses at the end of treatment keeps women cancer-free for longer.
In a trial of 1,608 women from 136 hospitals worldwide, fewer than three per cent of those given a radiotherapy boost saw their disease return after five years.
This is compared with just over seven per cent of those given the standard treatment.
Each year about 7,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with the earliest form of breast cancer, known as ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS. In roughly half of the cases the cancer does not spread to the surrounding breast tissue or other parts of the body.
Boost radiotherapy, which directly targets cancer cells, is commonly given to women with more developed tumours, as studies have shown that it prevents recurrence.
But the new trial is the first time the intervention has been offered to those at such an early stage.
Charity Breast Cancer Now has awarded researchers from the University of Edinburgh a £79,000 grant so they can continue to monitor the trial’s UK participants.
Professor Ian Kunkler, consultant in clinical oncology at the Edinburgh Cancer Centre, described the results as hugely encouraging. ‘We need to understand the long-term impact of the additional radiotherapy so that in the future, patients and clinicians can make an informed decision about whether it is right for them,’ he said.
While women given extra radiotherapy stayed well for longer, they also reported side effects including breast pain and skin hardening. Dr Kotryna Temcinaite from Breast Cancer Now said: ‘More research is needed to establish which women won’t benefit.’