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More Mastectomy Patients Need More RT

April 12, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Women who have had mastectomies may not be getting the radiotherapy they need. The results from recent research show that they are getting even less than patients who have had lumpectomies.

From the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer report, which was also published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, only 78% of the women studied who had been encouraged to get radiation therapy after their mastectomies eventually got it, as opposed to 95% of the lumpectomy patients. Among the 2,260 Detroit and Los Angeles women, 46% of the lower-risk mastectomy patients received RT, and 80% of lower-risk lumpectomy patients did. All the women had nonmetastatic breast cancer and were 20-79 years old. They were chosen because they had indicators for potential radiation therapy post surgery, or the presence of large tumors or the involvement of four or more lymph nodes near the tumors.

Because radiation therapy is recommended for patients with more than a 30%  likelihood of return cancer, and therapy can reduce those odds by two-thirds, the study authors reemphasized the benefits of appropriate RT.

“A substantial number of breast cancer patients are being undertreated,” said Reshma Jagsi, MD, study author and assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School, as quoted in the article. “One in five women with strong indications for radiation after mastectomy failed to receive it. Radiation can be a lifesaving treatment. The fact that 95% of patients who had lumpectomy received radiation in the two metropolitan areas we studied indicates that we can do better than we are currently doing for the selected mastectomy patients who also need radiation,” she said.

Dr. Jagsi went on to explain that even if a patient was hesitant about pursuing RT, she felt more confident about it if her surgeon discussed it with her. “We need to do a better job of educating both patients and physicians regarding the benefits of radiation after mastectomy in certain circumstances, and we need to encourage physicians to help their patients as they make these important decisions,” she said.

Related seminar: Breast & Women’s Imaging Seminar

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