Radiotherapy After Lumpectomies Works

Radiotherapy after lumpectomies cuts recurrence and mortality risks

October 19, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) If you're diagnosed with breast cancer and have a lumpectomy, radiation following surgery is your best bet. Why? Because it could well save your life.

A recent study that pools data from 17 trials demonstrates that radiotherapy following breast conserving surgery (lumpectomy) cuts risks of breast cancer recurrence in half and also improves survivor rates. These are the findings of the Early Breast Cancer Trialists' Collaborative Group (EBCTCG).

"Follow your doctor's orders and have radiation after your lumpectomy."

This worldwide study, the largest of its kind ever conducted, involved more than 10,000 women who were followed for an average of 10 years after treatment. 

Thomas A Buchholz, M.D., head of the Division of Radiation Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, told dailyRx, "It is exciting to see 15-year results from clinical trials comparing radiation vs. surgery alone which conclusively demonstrate the benefits of radiation. The paper is also important because it compiled data from every one of these studies, so the nearly 11,000 patients with long term follow-up let us be certain of the results."

Here's what the study found:

  • Ten years later, cancer had returned to 19 percent of women who had undergone radiation, compared to 35 percent in women who had not had the treatment.
  • This risk reduction was seen in the first year and lasted for 10 years.
  • Fifteen years after diagnosis, 25 percent of women who didn't have radiotherapy had died from breast cancers, versus 21 percent of women who had been treated with it.
  • There were no long-term adverse effects from the radiotherapy.

Dr. Buchholz said, "The most important message is that for breast cancer patients treated with breast conservation, radiation is highly effective in reducing the chance of having a recurrence and in doing so, improves their chance for long term survival and cure."

"Breast cancer death rates continue to go down, likely a result of screening and early detection, and advances in treatment. These data demonstrate that radiation use is another example of an incremental advance in treatment that combines with other benefits to help improve the outcome of breast cancer patients," Dr. Buchholz told dailyRx.

Dr. Buchholz wrote an accompanying editorial regarding this research that's been published Online First and will appear in an upcoming issue of  The Lancet.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 19, 2011
Last Updated:
November 10, 2011