Breast Cancer :: Radiation therapy reduces cancer recurrence in older breast cancer patients

Radiation therapy after lumpectomy and five years of treatment with the drug tamoxifen can dramatically reduce the risk of both cancer recurrence and new tumors in older women with early breast cancer.

A study by researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues.

“While these treatments are standard care for younger patients, it is has been shown that older women are less likely to receive them,” said lead author Ann M. Geiger, M.P.H., Ph.D., an associate professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest and formerly of Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Our results provide strong evidence of the importance of providing high quality care to all patients, regardless of age.”

The results, reported on-line today in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, will be published in the March 1 print issue of the journal.

Geiger said there is a pressing need for information about the effectiveness of breast cancer treatments in women over 65 because this is an expanding segment of the U.S. population. Women in this age group are at the highest risk for breast cancer and make up half of those diagnosed, but only recently have been included in treatment trials.

“Based on our findings, we recommend that mastectomy, or lumpectomy with radiation therapy, along with adequate duration of hormone therapy for women with hormone-responsive tumors, be considered standard therapy in women of all ages and health conditions, except for those with very limited life expectancies,” said Geiger.

The study also included women undergoing chemotherapy, but the number of participants wasn’t large enough to evaluate the treatment’s effectiveness.

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