November 2003
Article Features
  New Trial Launched for Breast Cancer Prevention Drug
New Evidence Eases Some Concerns about Bone Fracture Risk with Breast Cancer Drug
BRCA1 Gene Points Way to Targeting Breast Cancer Treatment
U.S. Women Endure Twice the Breast Biopsies as British Women
Chemical Change May Help Predict Course of Breast Cancer
Link Between Children's Solid Tumors and Their Mothers' Breast Cancer
Low Fat, High Fiber Diet May Not Affect Hormonal Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Ductal Lavage May Not Detect Noninvasive Breast Cancer
Electronic Discussions Help Cancer Patients Cope
Exemestane Shows High Tumor Response Rate in First-Line Treatment of Advanced Breast Cancer
Working Out May Keep Breast Cells Working Well
Contrast Mammography Reveals Hard-to-Find Cancers
Differences in Cancer Screening Rates Reported
Doctor's Communication Style May Sway Cancer Patients Considering Clinical Trials
New Diagnostic Technique May Reduce Need for Breast and Prostate Biopsies
New Treatment Significantly Improves Long-Term Outlook for Breast Cancer Survivors
Obesity Not Associated with Efficacy of Tamoxifen for Early-Stage Breast Cancer
New Test Can Identify Patients Who May Suffer Serious Late Toxicity from Radiotherapy
Study Reveals Low Complication Rates for Reconstruction after Radiation Therapy
Improving Sexual Quality of Life Among African-American Breast Cancer Survivors
Breast Cancer Patients Treated with Lumpectomy and Radiation Survive Longer if They Don't Smoke
New Study Suggests Use of Statins May Prevent Breast Cancer
Stress and Breast Cancer Risk
Docetaxel Versus Paclitaxel in Breast Cancer - Results of World's First Head to Head Trial
New Technique May Detect Breast Cancer and Define Prognosis Without Surgery

Partial Breast Irradiation
By Dr. Richard Zellars

Radiation therapy is an integral part or the management of early stage breast cancer. At least 5 other randomized trials have firmly established the role of radiation in breast conserving therapy (BCT). Traditionally, BCT consist of limited surgery and whole breast radiation. Although this treatment provides excellent local control and equivalent survival to modified radical mastectomy (MRM) in appropriately selected patients, this achievement is not without physical and social costs. Specifically the physical cost of radiation includes but is not limited to skin damage, rib fracture, lung damage, heart damage, pain and poor cosmesis. There are also social costs. Radiation in BCT is typically given daily for 5-7 weeks. This results in lost time from loved ones and livelihood. Additional time is lost when patients often have to travel great distances to the nearest radiation oncology center. The fear of side effects of whole breast radiation and the inconvenience of a 7-week treatment schedule, force women who are candidates for BCT, to choose MRM and therefore suffer an unnecessary anatomical loss.

To allow greater freedom of choice in local therapy, much research has gone into developing altered breast-conserving therapies that would provide the same local control and survival but at much lower social and physical cost. This research has basically taken two paths: 1) shorten the course of therapy and 2) decrease the amount of breast treated.

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