Breast cancer hope
Double radiation gives victims better chance
WOMEN who receive radiation to both lymph nodes and chest after breast cancer surgery can significantly boost their chance of remaining cancer-free a decade on.
The landmark international clinical trial could change the course of treatment for 5000 Australian women each year, the third of new breast cancer patients whose cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
International co-chair of the trial, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Associate Professor Boon Chua, said the results would allow patients and clinicians to make more informed decisions about treatment for early stage breast cancer.
The study followed more than 1800 women from Australia, Canada and the US for 10 years, comparing the out- come after breast conserving surgery of those who received radiation to both the chest wall and lymph nodes with those who just received breast radiation. After a decade, 82 per cent of women who received the double radiation were free of cancer, compared with 77 per cent of those who had just chest radiation.
It also found a small but not statistically significant in- crease in overall survival for the first group. “If we continue to monitor these women over the long term, beyond the 10 years, it’s likely that because there are more women without the breast cancer recurring, that this will translate to increases in overall survival,” Associate Prof Chua said.
“It’s a conversation more women will need to have with their doctors, and it’s a promis- ing step forward for them remaining cancer-free.”
Trial participant Patricia Canteri had lymph node radiation and recently celebrated 10 years of being cancer free.
During this period, the nurse has seen her son married and welcomed the arrival of three grandchildren.
“You do whatever is in your power to stay alive,” Ms Canteri said. “I was given that op- portunity. My surgeon said at the time, ‘what have you got to lose?’,” she said.
Patricia Canteri with grandkids James and Emma.