Radiation Study Finds New Way to Treat Breast Cancer

Doctors are testing a new treatment that could lead to sweeping changes in the fight against breast cancer.

Daily doses of radiation can take a toll on breast cancer patients, often causing debilitating side effects. But an ongoing study finds that a single dose of radiation during some breast cancer surgery could be just as effective as receiving multiple treatments.

VIDEO: Researchers: Instead of weeks of radiation, one dose can treat the disease.Play

Women who undergo a lumpectomy typically have to visit a radiation center five days a week for anywhere from three to six weeks after the surgery, receiving a low shot of radiation during each visit.

Now doctors are saying patients have the alternative to get one stronger dose of targeted radiation during surgery.

"That not only saves time but also side effects from the radiation to the breast tissue, to the heart, to the lungs, and is a much better approach," says Dr. Susan Love, a breast cancer researcher.

VIDEO: British researchers are testing radiation treatments through injection.Play
One Dose to Treat Breast Cancer?

Initial results from the radiation study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology this past week are encouraging. Breast cancer patients who had traditional radiation and those who had the single shot of radiation had roughly the same number of recurrences.

Many critics however, say the study is very limited because it only looks at about 2,000 women over four years.

"We really need to have more women followed for a much longer period of time before we can really understand the implications. This is not ready for primetime," says Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society.

There is also a conflict of interest between the company that makes the unique machine used to deliver the single shot of radiation and the study, because the company has helped pick up some of the expenses of the trial, some critics say.

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Latest Advances in Cancer Research

The authors of the study still say the science is solid. They say they're hopeful the new technology could one day make the battle against breast cancer a little easier to bear.