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Breast Cancer Radiation Won't Hurt Immune Health

Partial-breast method might leave women less tired, researchers say

FRIDAY, Oct. 12, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Neither of two commonly used radiation treatments for early-stage breast cancer has any negative effect on a patient's immune system, concludes a Loyola University Health System pilot study.

"One of the first questions a woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer asks is, 'What impact will radiation have on my body?' This study helps allay some fears," lead author Dr. Kevin Albuquerque, a radiation oncologist, said in a prepared statement.

The study did find that women who received five-day partial-breast radiation therapy (PBRT) had more energy and better quality of life than women who had whole-breast radiation therapy (WBRT).

The researchers noted that WBRT had been the standard of care for early-stage, small-tumor, node-negative breast cancer but, in the past five years, PBRT has become common in cancer centers across North America.

The study included 30 women over age 45 who had a lumpectomy for early-stage, small-tumor, node-negative breast cancer. They were divided into two treatment groups -- those who had WBRT and those who had PBRT -- and were assessed at six, nine and 15 weeks after their radiation therapy. Physical, emotional, and social health were among the areas evaluated.

"At 9 and 15 weeks, the PBRT women perceived less stress than the WBRT women," Albuquerque said. "When analyzing six-week data for change from baseline, women who had been treated with PBRT had improved energy and quality of life compared to those who had received WBRT."

"Based upon this pilot study, patients undergoing a longer, more extensive course of radiotherapeutic treatment for breast cancer will experience increased stress and reduced vigor, compared to patients undergoing a shorter course of radiotherapeutic treatment, PBRT," he said.

The study was to be presented Friday in Toronto at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncologists.

More information

The American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology has more about radiation therapy for breast cancer.

SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, news release, Oct. 12, 2007
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