In a nutshell
This study evaluated the side effects associated with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for advanced breast cancer. This study found that most side effects were mild and did not lower quality of life for patients.
Radiotherapy is often performed in breast cancer patients after surgery. Previous studies have shown that radiotherapy can help lower the risk of the cancer coming back. However, radiotherapy can have side effects. These often occur on the skin or inside the throat. Late complications can also occur, such as secondary cancer.
IMRT is a special type of radiotherapy that is associated with fewer side effects. This can help improve a patient’s quality of life. Unlike conventional radiotherapy, IMRT aims the radiation more directly at cancer cells. The outcomes after IMRT compared to conventional radiotherapy for patients with advanced breast cancer remain unclear.
Methods & findings
This study included 114 patients (5 patients left the study early). All patients had surgery to remove the tumor from the breast. After surgery, patients were treated with IMRT. Before and after treatment, patients filled out a survey reporting their quality of life. On average, treatment lasted for 36 days. Patients were followed-up for an average of 11.9 to 13.1 months.
121 patients reported side effects to the skin. Most of these (66.1%) were mild. 90.1% of patients reported skin irritation from treatment. 7.4% of patients reported hyperpigmentation (changes to the skin’s color).
114 patients reported side effects to the throat. Most of these (51.8%) were mild. 59.6% of patients reported pain or bleeding. 38.0% of patients had scarring develop in the throat.
4.1% of patients had long-term side effects to the skin 1 year later. This rate was 8.7% for side effects to the throat, not including scarring.
For all patients, the average score on the quality of life survey significantly increased by 9.9 points (before treatment vs. 6 months later). At 1 year after treatment, the average score was 7.0 points higher than before treatment.
The bottom line
The study concluded that IMRT had some side effects; however, these were mild. The authors suggest that this technique may be better for patients who need complicated radiation in some areas but not others.
The fine print
This is a small study. The follow-up period was too short to fully evaluate long-term complications. More studies with a longer follow-up are needed to confirm these results.
Published By :
Feb 28, 2019
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