Radiotherapy 'effective against early breast cancer'

Last updated at 14:02 07 July 2006

Radiotherapy can effectively stop very early breast cancer returning years after surgery, new research suggests.

The researchers found that the most effective approach was radiotherapy of the whole breast followed by a boost.

Doctors analysed the records of 373 women aged 45 or younger from 18 centres around the world who had ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, a condition that can lead to breast cancer.

All had received breast-conserving surgery. About a sixth of the patients were not given any radiotherapy after surgery. Almost half received one course of radiotherapy, and two fifths had radiotherapy with an extra boost.

Relapse-free survival at 10 years was 46 per cent for patients given no radiotherapy, 72 per cent for those given normal radiotherapy, and 86 per cent for women who received boosted radiotherapy.

Study leader Dr Guenther Gruber said: "Not using radiotherapy in young patients with DCIS resulted in an unacceptable number of women having their cancer return; these patients benefited from an additional dose boost."

In boosted radiotherapy, an additional shot of radiation is given on top of the normal treatment after surgery. The strategy is already known to work in cases of invasive breast cancer, especially in younger women.

Dr Gruber stressed that doctors must be aware of the hazards of applying high doses of radiotherapy.

"Radiotherapy has to be applied careful, especially in regard to heart, lungs and the other breast," he said.

No randomised trials have yet been undertaken to assess the effectiveness of boosted radiotherapy in women with such early stage breast cancer.

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