Recent research shows that some women age 70 or older with early-stage breast cancer may not need radiation therapy after lumpectomy if they receive tamoxifen (Nolvadex). A lumpectomy is the removal of the tumor and a small cancer-free margin of tissue around the tumor.
The women who participated in this study were 70 or older and had stage I, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer that had not spread to the lymph nodes (the tiny, bean-shaped organs that help fight infection). After lumpectomy, they received either tamoxifen or tamoxifen and radiation therapy. Women who received tamoxifen and radiation therapy were slightly less likely to have the cancer return. However, the women who received tamoxifen and the women who received tamoxifen plus radiation therapy lived a similar amount of time after treatment and were unlikely to die from breast cancer in the 10 years after treatment.
What This Means for Patients
“The standard of care for women age 70 or older with very small tumors that are estrogen-positive and have not spread to the lymph nodes has been lumpectomy and radiation therapy,” said lead author Kevin Hughes, MD, Surgical Director, Breast Screening, and Co-Director of the Avon Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “This study confirms that for older women with early-stage breast cancer, lumpectomy without radiation therapy is a good alternative, and tamoxifen may replace the need for radiation therapy.”
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- What type and stage of breast cancer do I have? What does this mean?
- What is the chance that the cancer will return?
- What are my treatment options?
- What treatment do you recommend? What are the side effects?
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