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Why treating breast cancer with less may be more

Women with breast cancer have long faced complicated choices about the best course of treatment.

One particular concern has been the daily radiation therapy many women with breast cancer receive for six weeks after surgery. This form of therapy, also known as conventionally fractionated external beam radiation, has generally been recommended for most women undergoing breast conservation therapy. The goal has been to rid the body of any remaining cancerous cells that the surgeon’s tools could not remove.

Radiation, however, can be time-consuming and expensive for the patient and society. It also carries a small risk for late complications, such as heart disease.

New therapies have been tested that would shorten the length of radiotherapy from six weeks to three weeks, or deliver a single dose at the time of the lumpectomy procedure in the operating room.

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(Credit: iStockphoto/dubassy)

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