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Older Women With Early-Stage Breast Cancer Benefit From Radiation After Lumpectomy

New findings contradict clinical recommendations

A new study published on August 13 in the online edition of Cancer suggests that, contrary to clinical recommendations, older women with early-stage breast cancer may want to undergo radiation after lumpectomy to help ensure that they will not need a mastectomy in the future. The findings indicate that current thinking on the risks and benefits of radiation for early-stage breast cancer in older women may be inaccurate.

National treatment guidelines state that older women with early-stage breast cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes and that is driven by estrogen in the body can be treated with lumpectomy and estrogen blockers without the need for radiation.

Researchers analyzed information on 7,403 women aged 70 to 79 years who were treated with lumpectomy for early-stage breast cancer between 1992 and 2002 and whose data were included in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results—Medicare database, which links cancer-registry information to a master file of Medicare enrollment. Approximately 88% of these women received radiation after their lumpectomy.

The researchers found that within 10 years after treatment, 6.3% of the women who did not get radiation eventually had their breast removed by mastectomy, compared with 3.2% of women who received radiation.

Radiation did not appear to benefit women aged 75 to 79 years with non—high-grade tumors, suggesting that this group can probably forego the treatment. Patients with high-grade tumors, regardless of age, seemed to derive the most benefit from radiation.

For more information, visit the Wiley Web site.

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