Harvard Study Shows Radiation Therapy Needed with Lumpectomy to Effectively Treat Breast Cancer

April 1, 1996

Breast-conserving surgery without radiation therapy is not an effective treatment for early-stage breast cancer, a Harvard Medical School study concludes.

Breast-conserving surgery without radiation therapy is not aneffective treatment for early-stage breast cancer, a Harvard MedicalSchool study concludes.

The study results were presented at the annual meeting of theAmerican Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO)in Miami Beach, Florida, by Dr. James Hayman of the Joint Centerfor Radiation Therapy, Harvard Medical School.

According to Dr. Hayman, the study team was surprised that a substantialnumber of patients who were not given radiation therapy had cancerrecur in their breasts. These patients, he explained, were verycarefully chosen because all indications were that they woulddo well with lumpectomy alone.

The 3-year rate of repeat cancer in the breast in this group wasmore than 10%, according to Dr. Hayman.

In 76% of the patients, breast cancer was first detected by mammography-anindication that the cancer was small and could not even be felt.Nevertheless, lumpectomy alone did not prove to be as effectiveas conservative surgery combined with radiation therapy has been,he added.

Overall, of a total of 87 patients who had lumpectomy but no radiationtherapy, 14 have had a recurrence of breast cancer, Dr. Haymansaid. This recurrence rate of 16% represents "a substantialrisk of local recurrence following treatment with lumpectomy alone,"he added.

"At this time, we are not able to identify any group of patientswith early breast cancer who are candidates for conservative surgerywithout radiation therapy," Dr. Hayman said. "Surgeryalone for early-stage breast cancer does not appear to be an acceptabletreatment."