A new study found that longer radiation therapy is not required in all the case of breast cancer. It reported that nearly 65% of women having lumpectomies for breast cancer receive radiation therapy twice longer than necessary.
Most radiation treatments last for at least five to seven weeks compared to guidelines from a radiology society suggesting three to four weeks of more intense radiation. Even four rigorous studies also concluded such shorter course of intense radiation to be as effective. While the shorter course of radiation is less expensive, it is more preferred by the patients as well.
Dr. Bruce G. Haffty, from the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, said if a physician is doing longer radiation treatment since long, he would not easily adopt the new shorter regimen and may also doubt its effectiveness. It really takes time to change ingrained medical practices.
As a result, very few women with lumpectomies receive the shorter treatment, said doctors and health insurers. The new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, a research team analyzed data involving 15,643 women, who had lumpectomies, from 14 insurance plans. The study was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania doctors, Justin E. Bekelman and Ezekiel J. Emanuel and their colleagues.
If the new shorter regimen is well adopted, it could help save time for patients and money for the insurers and health care system. According to the estimates, a longer radiation therapy in the U.S. costs $31,641 whereas a shorter therapy costs just about $28,747. Part of this is because the shorter regimen requires about 16 doses compared to 33 doses for conventional, longer therapy.
Surprisingly, the findings of recent study aren’t new. A Canadian study published in 2002 also shown the effectiveness of the shorter therapy, said Dr. Harold J. Burstein of Dana Farber Cancer Institute.