According to McMaster University researcher Timothy Whelan and his team, older women with early-stage breast cancer may not require radiation following surgery.
Whelan stated that people aged 55 and over with stage one breast cancer who have a particular biomarker pattern distinguishing the luminal Only surgery and endocrine treatment can adequately treat a subtype. On June 7, he presented data at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.
His study team, in collaboration with the Ontario Clinical Oncology Group at Hamilton Health Sciences, followed 501 patients with luminal A breast cancer for five years after surgery and discovered that the risk of cancer recurrence in the breast was just 2.3% without radiation. This was essentially equal to the patient sample’s 1.9 percent probability of acquiring new breast cancer in their other untreated breast.
Whelan said at this time patients with early-stage breast cancer typically undergo radiotherapy courses of three to five weeks to reduce the risk of their cancer recurring.
“These findings are exciting because we have identified a certain group of patients who can avoid radiotherapy and its associated side effects and potentially change for the better medical practice around the treatment of breast cancer,” said Whelan, a professor in the Department of Oncology at McMaster, a Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer Research and a radiation oncologist for Hamilton Health Sciences.
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“Radiotherapy has significant early side effects, including fatigue and skin irritation that can last for several weeks after the course is completed, and late side effects such as breast shrinkage and distortion that can affect the quality of life and very rarely more serious complications such as heart disease and second cancers,” he said.
“If we can avoid radiotherapy, so much the better. Not all cancers require the same level of often-invasive treatment. There is a very low-risk group of breast cancers displaying the luminal A biomarker and they are not particularly aggressive.”
He claims that thanks to routine mammography screening, superior surgical procedures, and better systemic therapies, the overall risk of cancer recurrence following breast-conserving surgery has dropped in recent years.
Whelan’s study is currently following patients with the luminal A form of breast cancer for ten years to learn more about treatment effectiveness without radiation.
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