For women with hormone-driven bosom disease, adding radiation to hormone treatment may shield their cancer from returning for as long as 10 years, new study finds.
Breast cancer didn’t come back in the same breast for 97.5% of women who had radiation therapy plus hormone therapy compared to just over 92% of women who had hormone therapy alone, the researchers said.
Moreover, over the study’s 10-year follow-up period, 94.5% of the women in the radiation therapy group were as yet alive without a cancer recurrence, compared to just over 88% of women who only had hormone therapy.
Study author Dr. Gerd Fastner, from Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg, Austria, said the study shows that adding radiation therapy can increase disease-free survival and improve the odds a cancer won’t come back over the long term.
Dr. Alice Police, regional director of breast surgery at Northwell Health Breast Care Centers Westchester in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., said the findings are important because “there have been a lot of studies trying to prove that in small cancers in postmenopausal women, there may be a group of women who can skip radiation. This study shows it’s still not safe to omit radiation therapy in women who have had breast-conserving surgery.”
Police included that while women with these cancers might think they can choose one treatment or another, a combination yields the best results.
The study included almost 900 postmenopausal women. Fastner said they were between 46 and 80 years old, with an average age of 66. All of the women were from Austria, and most were white.
The women in the study all had breast cancer that was considered low risk for spreading. Their tumors were small in size (under 3 centimeters).
All of the women had breast-conserving surgery. That means rather than removing the entire breast (mastectomy), surgeons remove the tumor and a bit of the healthy tissue around the tumor.
The study patients all had hormone receptor-positive cancers, which means that hormones such as estrogen and progesterone fueled the cancer’s growth, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute. About two of three breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive, according to the American Cancer Society.