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‘Less is more’ for radiotherapy in early breast cancer

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Giving radiotherapy in fewer, larger treatments is at least as safe and effective at treating early breast cancer as the international standard dose, according to latest follow-up results from a major trial.

Nearly 4,500 women across the UK have taken part in the UK Standardisation of Breast Radiotherapy (START) trials.

The research was co-ordinated by the Institute of Cancer Research in London and jointly funded by Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health.

Previously published five-year results showed it was just as effective and safe to give women a lower total dose of radiotherapy in fewer, larger treatments than the 25-dose international standard, following primary surgery for early breast cancer.

As a result, the shorter treatment course of 15 treatments was adopted in the UK in 2008.

The 10-year follow-up have now confirmed the benefits and shows that the relapse rates of cancer within the same breast are similar to the international standard course of radiotherapy following surgery.

Chief trial investigator Professor John Yarnold said: “We’ve shown conclusively that less can be more in breast cancer radiotherapy.

“Three weeks of radiotherapy is as good as five weeks – as well as being more convenient and less tiring for patients. It also has the added benefit of being cheaper for the health service,” he added.

“These long-term results provide an important reassurance that the shorter treatment course is the best option for patients.”

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