Radiation therapy and tamoxifen helps prevent cancer returning

Early stage breast cancer patients over the age of 50 can greatly minimize their chances of recurrence after surgery by receiving radiation therapy in addition to taking tamoxifen, a hormonal therapy, according to a study presented October 5, 2004, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology’s 46th Annual Meeting in Atlanta.

To determine whether or not certain low-risk, early stage cancer patients could avoid radiation therapy after surgery, researchers compared 769 women, 50 years or older, who had undergone a lumpectomy to remove the tumor from their breast. After surgery, half of the women received radiation therapy in addition to tamoxifen and half received only tamoxifen. After five years, only 0.6 percent of women receiving the combined treatment had a recurrence, compared to 7.7 percent for those patients who received just tamoxifen.

“These findings are important for women who fear the possible return of their breast cancer,” said Anthony Fyles, M.D., lead author of the study and radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. “Although the overall risk of the cancer returning is small, there remains a significant benefit to following up surgery with radiation treatment and tamoxifin.”


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