Radiation therapy could assist older breast cancer patients says study

In collaboration with the Press Association

Radiotherapy could help older women with a certain type of early stage breast cancer avoid recurring tumours or extensive surgery, according to new research.

Previous clinical guidelines, issued after a 2004 study, recommended that radiotherapy may not be the best option for women over 70 with hormone-sensitive breast cancer due to the small treatment benefits, side effects and costs.

A new Yale School of Medicine survey has re-examined the evidence however, and concludes that it has established a way to identify which patients will benefit most from treatment.

The risks of developing breast cancer are strongly related to age, with more than 80 per cent of cases occurring among women over 50.

The Yale study identified 8,724 women over the age of 70 who had undergone surgery for early-stage oestrogen-linked breast cancer who would potentially benefit from radiation therapy.

While radiotherapy was associated with reduced rates of recurrence and mastectomies across all ages, those who benefited the most were women under 80 who were in good health.

Women older than 80 who also had unrelated illnesses benefited significantly less.

"Our results indicate that important, readily identifiable characteristics can determine which patients are most likely to benefit from radiation therapy," reported the authors.

The study is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the UK, with 42,000 new cases diagnosed every year.

Find out more about breast cancer treatment on our patient information website, CancerHelp UK

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