Here’s some good news for the thousands of women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer every year. After a large 12 year study, Canadian researchers say three weeks of radiation treatment work just as well as the usual course of five weeks or more.
These results provide some of the strongest evidence yet that radiation schedules can safely be shortened to make life easier for patients and to let clinics reduce their waiting lists and treat more women without buying more machines.
Experts say the new findings, could even change the standard of care in the United States. The typical schedule now involves five to seven weeks of daily treatments, and most women would welcome a chance to get it over with faster — especially those who work, have small children or live far from the clinic.
There is one cautionary note: radiation oncologists give some patients a “boost,” of five to eight extra treatments aimed just at the tumor bed. This study did not include a boost, and some doctors think that since the shorter treatment involves higher daily doses, it would deliver too much radiation if used with the boost.