Older breast cancer patients see more complications with brachytherapy

October 22, 2012

heralded for its low complication rates—actually results in more complications than whole-breast radiation one year after treatment, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The standard treatment for older women with early stage breast cancer includes breast-conserving surgery, typically followed by radiation therapy to reduce the risk of . Rather than irradiating larger areas of the breast, as in whole breast irradiation, brachytherapy temporarily implants radiation sources in catheters within the surgical site. This technique delivers larger and fewer directly to the , which results in a shortened treatment time and, proponents of the therapy believe, decreased toxicity to surrounding healthy tissue.

"This treatment method seems ideal in theory, but we found it concerning that such an important clinical decision that affects so many women was being made on the basis of theory, rather than scientific evidence," said the study's lead author Cary P. Gross, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine. "Despite the absence of large comparing these two treatments, brachytherapy has become increasingly popular, in part because of a theoretically lower rate of complications."

To test the theory, Gross' team studied a national sample of approximately 30,000 women with and found that 15.8% of women undergoing radiation therapy received brachytherapy in 2008-2009, up from less than 1% in 2000 and 10% in 2006. There was substantial variation in brachytherapy use across the country, ranging from less than 5% of patients in some areas to over 70% in others.

The team found that the use of brachytherapy was associated with a 16.9% higher rate of wound and skin complications in the year after treatment compared to whole breast irradiation. There was no significant difference in the rate of deep tissue or bone complications between the two treatments.

"This study highlights the importance of conducting comparative effectiveness research before a new treatment becomes widespread," said Gross, who is co-director of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at Yale. "Medicare is spending significantly more money to cover this treatment, which potentially exposes women to a higher risk of complications than the 'tried and true' whole ."

Explore further: Radiation still used despite evidence of little benefit to some older breast cancer patients

Related Stories

Radiation still used despite evidence of little benefit to some older breast cancer patients

March 5, 2012
Even though a large clinical study demonstrated that radiation has limited benefit in treating breast cancer in some older women, there was little change in the use of radiation among older women in the Medicare program, ...

APBI associated with more mastectomies, toxicities, complications, compared to traditional radiation

May 1, 2012
Accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI) brachytherapy, the localized form of radiation therapy growing increasingly popular as a treatment choice for women with early-stage breast cancer, is associated with higher rate ...

Study finds side effects, complications, mastectomy more likely after partial breast irradiation

December 7, 2011
Accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI) brachytherapy, the localized form of radiation therapy growing increasingly popular as a treatment choice for women with early-stage breast cancer, is associated with higher rate ...

Recommended for you

Zebrafish larvae could be used as 'avatars' to optimize personalized treatment of cancer

August 21, 2017
Portuguese scientists have for the first time shown that the larvae of a tiny fish could one day become the preferred model for predicting, in advance, the response of human malignant tumors to the various therapeutic drugs ...

Scientists discover vitamin C regulates stem cell function, curbs leukemia development

August 21, 2017
Not much is known about stem cell metabolism, but a new study from the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) has found that stem cells take up unusually high levels of vitamin C, which then ...

Searching for the 'signature' causes of BRCAness in breast cancer

August 21, 2017
Breast cancer cells with defects in the DNA damage repair-genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 have a mutational signature (a pattern of base swaps—e.g., Ts for Gs, Cs for As—throughout a genome) known in cancer genomics as "Signature ...

How a non-coding RNA encourages cancer growth and metastasis

August 21, 2017
A mechanism that pushes a certain gene to produce a non-coding form of RNA instead of its protein-coding alternative can promote the growth of cancer, report researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) ...

Spaser can detect, kill circulating tumor cells to prevent cancer metastases, study finds

August 21, 2017
A nanolaser known as the spaser can serve as a super-bright, water-soluble, biocompatible probe capable of finding metastasized cancer cells in the blood stream and then killing these cells, according to a new research study.

Comprehensive genomic analysis offers insights into causes of Wilms tumor development

August 21, 2017
A comprehensive genomic analysis of Wilms tumor - the most common kidney cancer in children - found genetic mutations involving a large number of genes that fall into two major categories. These categories involve cellular ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.