A large study found that women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer who got radiation therapy at higher doses but less frequently (or for a shorter overall period of time) got just as many benefits as women who got a standard course of radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy after breast cancer surgery is usually given as 25 treatments -- you're treated 5 times per week over 5 weeks. Half the women in this study received this standard schedule. The other half received fewer treatments per week for either 3 or 5 weeks, but each treatment used a higher dose of radiation. By the end of radiation therapy, the women who were on the non-standard schedule got the same total amount of radiation as the women who were on a standard schedule. The side effects were the same no matter which schedule a woman was on.
The main advantage of the non-standard radiation therapy schedule was that the women got fewer treatments, which means they didn't have to go to the doctor's office as much. Scheduling daily trips to the radiation oncologist's office to get radiation therapy treatment can be a problem for some women.
More research is needed before alternative radiation therapy schedules become widely used. If radiation therapy is part of your breast cancer treatment plan, you might want to talk to your doctor about this study. Ask whether a modified treatment schedule is something your radiation oncologist would consider for your specific medical situation. Together, you and your doctor can make the best choice for YOU.
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