Physician attitudes and patient expectations are driving overtreatment in older breast cancer patients. A new U-M study examines why the practice persists. Recent clinical trials have shown that 90 percent of early stage breast cancer patients over age 70 do not benefit from radiation after breast-conserving surgery. And yet, use of radiation in this context has dropped only minimally. A new University of Michigan study examines why. Researchers, he says, have begun to identify whether patients who undergo lumpectomy can avoid radiation without compromising outcomes.
Patients who undergo lumpectomy surgery for treatment of their breast cancer almost always receive radiation therapy afterward. This form of adjuvant supplemental therapy uses high-energy rays such as X-rays to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors. Most commonly, radiation therapy is used to kill any cancer cells that remain in the breast, chest wall or underarm area after surgery. It is also used to treat the healthy breast tissue that remains after a lumpectomy—not to kill cancer cells that may have remained, but to radiate the tissue to prevent it from creating breast cancer cells again. Radiation therapy services, offered through the Department of Radiation Oncology, encompass a wide variety of breast center therapies and expert consultation. A physicist and the radiation oncologist carefully plan where the beams should be aimed using advanced calculations and past scans of the patient.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. It is often used to treat breast cancer. Your healthcare team will consider your personal needs to plan the type and amount of radiation, and when and how it is given. You may also receive other treatments.