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Fewer and larger doses of breast cancer radiotherapy are just as effective in fighting the disease researchers have claimed.
Less skin changes were also apparent with a lower overall course, while other effects like hardness, swelling, sensitivity, pain and stiffness at similar levels to those treated the standard way.
Two trials were performed: in one, patients received 39 grays or 41.6 grays in 13 fractions over five weeks, and in the other the treatment was 40 grays in 15 fractions over three weeks.
Overall, about 40% of over 2,000 women questioned reported moderate or marked changes in the five years after treatment. The most frequently reported adverse effects were breast hardness (41%) and change in breast appearance (39%). Up to a third suffered arm and shoulder pain linked with earlier treatment.
The international standard dose of radiotherapy is 50 grays delivered in 25 fractions (treatments) over five weeks.
The tests were carried out by experts at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) which funded them with the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health. The study, in the journal The Lancet Oncology, was part of the Start trials involving 4,451 patients.
Copyright Press Association 2010