HealthDay News — For women with early-stage breast cancer, targeted doses of radiation therapy may be as effective as standard radiation treatment of the entire breast, according to research presented at the European Breast Cancer Conference, held from March 9 to 11 in Amsterdam.

The researchers behind the new study randomly assigned 2,018 women with breast cancer in the United Kingdom to undergo 1 of 3 radiation therapy approaches after having small cancerous tumors surgically removed. Two of the approaches focused the radiation around the tumor, exposing the rest of the breast to little or no radiation.

The researchers found that 3 weeks of partial breast radiation therapy produced fewer side effects but seemed just as effective as whole breast radiation over 5 years. Besides very low rates of relapse among all 3 groups, the rate of side effects from the target therapy was minimal.

The research only tracked women for 5 years, so it isn’t definitive. Still, “this contributes to a growing body of evidence that a large proportion of women over 50 years old with small breast cancers can avoid whole breast radiotherapy,” study coauthor John Yarnold, MBBS, a professor of clinical oncology with the Institute of Cancer Research in London, told HealthDay.

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