Radiation therapy following a mastectomy to treat breast cancer is a standard of care for patients with N2/N3 breast cancer that cuts the risk for recurrence while improving overall survival rates in many cases. Yet, a new study out of the Louisiana State University Health Services Center shows that about a third of all patients in the United States are not receiving this standard procedure.
The study reviewed nearly 57,000 breast cancer cases from 1998 to 2011 to find that only 65 percent of patients received the standard follow-up radiation treatments. Researchers also looked at factors that seemed to predict whether radiation would be administered following surgery. These three factors in particular seemed to predict a higher likelihood that radiation would be delivered:
• Administration of chemotherapy following mastectomy
• Readmission into the hospital within a month after surgery
• Survival 30 days after the operation
Figures for the study were gleaned from a review of information found in the National Cancer Center Data Base. That information, however, did not provide researchers will insights on whether radiation was refused by patients or if it simply was not offered.
While it was impossible to tell just exactly why patients did not receive this follow-up care, researchers say it sheds light on the need for patients and clinicians both to be made better aware of the benefits of postsurgical procedures. Radiation is meant to kill off any remaining cancer cells following surgery, effectively reducing the chance cancer will come back while helping increase the odds of survival.
Clinicians should offer women who undergo treatment for N2/N3 breast cancer access to radiation following mastectomy. If they do not, patients themselves should inquire as to why, researchers suggest.
Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer should carefully review their treatment options with their doctors. It’s best to discuss the specific recommendations since they may vary based on case specifics and the staging of the particular cancer a woman is facing.
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