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ASTRO: Radiation Boost May Increase Lymphedema Risk

Risk may outweigh benefits of radiation boost to axillary nodes in breast cancer patients

THURSDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- In women treated for early stage breast cancer, the risk of developing lymphedema may outweigh the benefit of receiving an extra boost of radiation to lymph nodes, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology in Philadelphia.

Shelly B. Hayes, M.D., of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, and colleagues studied 2,581 women with early stage breast cancer and followed them for a median of 81 months. Among the subjects, 2,174 (84 percent) were treated with radiation to the breast alone, 221 (8.6 percent) were treated with radiation to the breast and supraclavicular lymph nodes and 184 (7.1 percent) received an additional boost of radiation to the axillary nodes.

The researchers found that women who had more than four positive lymph nodes were four times more likely to develop lymphedema when treated with a boost, despite similar risks of nodal recurrences.

"Given the increased risk of lymphedema and the lack of evidence supporting improvements in nodal recurrences from the boost, we should carefully consider these results before delivering a boost to our patients," Hayes said in a statement.


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