Better Quality of Life Linked to Hypofractionated Radiation Doses

Study finds regimen associated with fewer adverse effects in women with breast cancer

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Radiation given as fewer but larger doses (hypofractionated radiotherapy) is associated with better quality of life than the standard treatment of more lower doses in women with early-stage breast cancer, according to a study published online Feb. 8 in The Lancet Oncology.

Penelope Hopwood, M.D., of the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, U.K., and colleagues surveyed adverse effects and quality of life among 2,208 women who had been treated with radiotherapy (39 Gy or 41.6 Gy delivered in 13 fractions over five weeks, 40 Gy delivered in 15 fractions over three weeks, or 50 Gy delivered in 25 fractions over five weeks) after primary surgery for early-stage breast cancer as part of two clinical trials.

At five years, the researchers found that up to 40 percent of women reported changes to the breast, and up to a third of women reported arm and shoulder pain. In general, the rates of adverse effects were lower with the hypofractionated regimens compared with the 50 Gy regimen. Compared with the 50 Gy regimen, adverse changes in skin appearance were significantly less common with the 39 Gy regimen (hazard ratio, 0.63) and the 40 Gy regimen (hazard ratio, 0.76), while no difference was observed for the 41.6 Gy regimen.

"In conclusion, the report by Hopwood and colleagues is an important and exciting addition to the study of radiotherapy effects in patients with breast cancer," writes the author of an accompanying editorial. "Hopefully, the work by this group will inspire both researchers and clinicians to make understanding and assessment of patients' experiences a top priority."

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