Older Early-Stage Breast Cancer Patients Get More Radiation Therapy than They Need, Study Shows

Older Early-Stage Breast Cancer Patients Get More Radiation Therapy than They Need, Study Shows
More than half of older early-stage breast cancer patients received more radiation therapy than they needed, resulting in unnecessary treatments and tens of millions of dollars in extra healthcare costs. The study with the findings, “Cost Implications of an Evidence-Based Approach to Radiation Treatment After Lumpectomy for Early-Stage Breast Cancer,” appeared in the Journal of Oncology Practice. "It's important to look for opportunities in cancer treatment where we can safely reduce healthcare costs without compromising excellent outcomes," study lead author Rachel A. Greenup, MD, assistant professor of surgery at Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C., said in a news release. "Our study provides an example of a win-win situation, where patients can receive high-quality, evidence-based cancer care while also reducing the treatment burden for patients and the healthcare system." Greenup and her colleagues used data from the National Cancer Database to identify 43,247 early-stage breast cancer patients, aged 50 years or more, who got breast cancer surgery during 2011. All the women had small breast cancer tumors that had not spread to the lymph nodes, and underwent a lumpectomy — a surgery in which doctors remove only the tumor and some surrounding tissue. Overall, 27,697 women (64 percent of the total) received conventional radiation therapy (RT). Another 5,724 women (13.3 percent) got hypofractionated RT, a type of therapy given at higher doses but over a shorter period. Another 477 women (1.1 percent)
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