Tens of thousands of breast cancer sufferers could benefit in future from an “innovative” new type of radiotherapy, which could be delivered during surgery instead of making them take a course of treatment.
Intrabeam radiotherapy has been given a provisional go-ahead for NHS use by the National Institute for Health and Care.
In new draft guidance, NICE said that the treatment option should be considered for people with early stage breast cancer.
“This single dose is given at the same time as surgery, eliminating the need for numerous hospital visits”
A single dose of radiotherapy could be “more convenient” for patients, NICE said.
The institute noted that regular radiotherapy typically required numerous doses over a three week period − although some people may receive it for longer − and was performed weeks or months after surgery or chemotherapy.
Some patients have to make 15 additional trips to hospital for radiotherapy but the latest treatment can be given during breast surgery, reducing the “disruption, stress and inconvenience” for sufferers, said a spokeswoman for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
The charity said that the “revolutionary” treatment would not only cause less hassle for patients but it would also save the NHS time and money.
“This is great news for early breast cancer patients due for breast conserving operations,” said Sally Greenbrook, senior policy officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
“Whilst this is just an initial decision from NICE we look forward to their final decision which we very much hope will remain positive,” she added.
NICE said that because the novel technique was a new treatment option, it was recommending its use in a “controlled way”.
It said patients should be fully informed about the pros and cons of treatment.
The new draft guidance, which has been put out to consultation, also stated that patients who had been given the treatment should be put on a national register and calls for experts to review the outcomes.
Professor Carole Longson, director of health technology evaluation at NICE, said: “Unlike regular radiotherapy, with the Intrabeam Radiotherapy System only one dose is required. This single dose is given at the same time as surgery, eliminating the need for numerous hospital visits.
“It’s still a new treatment − so far only six centres in the UK have used the Intrabeam Radiotherapy System to treat early breast cancer,” she said. “Because it is still relatively new, it is only right to recommend its use in a carefully controlled way.
“This will ensure patients are fully aware of the risks and benefits before choosing which treatment to have and allow doctors to gather more information about the treatment,” she added.
Every year, around 41,500 women and 300 men in England are diagnosed with breast cancer.
NICE said that around 86% of these patients, or 35,970 people each year, could potentially benefit from the treatment.
Early stage breast cancer is classed as such when the tumour is confined to the breast area and has not spread.
A Intrabeam radiotherapy machine costs £435,000 plus VAT and maintenance of the machine is expected to cost in the region of £35,000 a year.
The consultation runs until August 15, with final guidance expected later this year.