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A new study has revealed that skipping radiotherapy in older breast cancer patients after surgery does not harm the individual’s overall survival. 

Skipping radiotherapy after breast cancer surgery doesn’t impact survival 

According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, skipping radiotherapy following surgery for women above 65 and with small hormone-positive breast cancer might not significantly affect general survival, provided they get five years of endocrine therapy. Yet, there may be a greater chance of cancer recurrence in the breast.

The results show that provided patients receive endocrine therapy, radiation treatment has adverse effects like tiredness, breast soreness, and a higher risk of lung and heart complications—which might not be necessary to increase survival rates in the group. In endocrine therapy, often known as hormonal treatment, hormones are added, blocked, or removed as a therapy component for certain disorders, such as to delay or prevent the development of specific tumours.

Findings offer insight into the overtreatment of low-risk breast cancer women 

Harvard Medical School’s Jennifer Bellon and Duke University School of Medicine’s Alice Ho said the data responds to the overtreatment problem in older women with low-risk breast cancer. They said that the opportunity to forego radiotherapy is among the numerous possibilities on a long list, including using shortened radiotherapy treatments and limited target volumes. Practically speaking, radiation can be time- and money-consuming. However, strong evidence supporting the decision to forgo radiation in some patients is so desired.

The researchers discovered that the same breast tumour recurrence occurred more frequently in these participants that didn’t receive radiotherapy. In addition, the patients who didn’t get radiotherapy had a higher cumulative prevalence of tumour recurrence, 9.5% in the placebo and 0.9% in the treatment group. 

Local recurrence incidence up to 10 years in patients that received radiotherapy was low, while that in patients didn’t continue to increase. Surprisingly survival rate at ten years was almost the same at 80.7% with radiotherapy and 80.8% without.