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Radiation and mastectomy

Findings contradict guidelines for older patients with early-stage breast cancer

Promise - Fall 2012


By Laura Sussman

For the majority of older, early-stage breast cancer patients, radiation therapy following breast-conserving surgery may help prevent the need for a later mastectomy, say MD Anderson researchers.
The findings, published in Cancer, are contrary to current national treatment guidelines, which recommend that older women with early-stage, estrogen-positive disease undergo lumpectomy followed by estrogen blocker therapy alone ― and forgo radiation therapy post-surgery.

The researchers also found that radiation did not benefit patients 75 to 79 years of age who had their lymph nodes assessed and did not have high-grade tumors.

Benjamin Smith, M.D.

“The national guidelines, while well-intended and important, may gloss over certain nuances needed for making critical decisions with patients,” says Benjamin Smith, M.D., assistant professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Radiation Therapy and the study’s corresponding author. “Our study provides data that physicians can use when talking to their patients about whether to go forward with radiation.”

Varian Medical Systems, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Cancer Institute and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas were among funding sources for this research.

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