Women with early-stage breast cancer are routinely given radiotherapy after surgery—but it’s unnecessary, new research suggests.
Breast conserving surgery is sufficient to treat stage 1 breast cancers that are known as luminal A, which is 60 percent of all breast cancers and have a low risk of recurrence.
Women are routinely given daily radiotherapy after surgery for several weeks to reduce the risk of the tumour returning, but researchers at McMaster University say it isn’t necessary. Radiation is expensive, inconvenient for the patient and short-term effects include fatigue and skin irritation, and longer term the woman can suffer breast pain and tissue thickening, which can change the way the breast appears.
The researchers tracked the progress of around 500 women who were 55 and older after breast conserving surgery, around half of whom were also give radiotherapy. Just 2.3 percent of the women who did not have radiotherapy suffered a recurrence of their cancer within five years, compared to 1.9 percent of those who had radiotherapy.