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Study Questions APBI for Breast Cancer

Conquest - Spring 2012


An increasingly popular treatment choice for women with early-stage breast cancer may not be the answer for everyone. 

According to MD Anderson researchers, partial breast irradiation (APBI) brachytherapy is associated with a higher rate of later mastectomies, increased radiation-related toxicities and post-operative complications compared to traditional whole breast irradiation.

Ben Smith, M.D.

While there are numerous types of APBI, the MD Anderson study only looked at the brachytherapy technique. This radiation treatment involves insertion of a catheter containing a radioactive source to kill breast cancer cells that may remain after lumpectomy surgery. 

A specialized catheter is surgically inserted into the cavity left behind after tumor removal. APBI is performed a few weeks after a lumpectomy, twice daily over a course of five to seven days.

For this retrospective population-based study, the 
MD Anderson team used Medicare claims to examine the treatment history of 130,535 women age 66 and older diagnosed with early-stage, invasive breast cancer, from 2000 to 2007. 

All the women were treated with breast-conserving surgery followed by either APBI, delivered by brachytherapy, or traditional radiation therapy.

“APBI brachytherapy has grown in popularity during the past decade as earlier studies showed generally low cancer recurrence rates. However, most prior studies have not directly compared the treatment’s outcomes to traditional radiation therapy,” says Ben Smith, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology and the study’s senior author.

Reported in December 2011 at the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cancer Therapy and Research Center-American Association for Cancer Research San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

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