What is the role of post lumpectomy radiation therapy in the treatment of breast cancer?

Updated: Feb 04, 2021
  • Author: Pavani Chalasani, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: John V Kiluk, MD, FACS  more...
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The purpose of radiation therapy after breast-conserving surgery is to eradicate local subclinical residual disease while reducing local recurrence rates by approximately 75%. On the basis of results from several randomized controlled studies, irradiation of the intact breast is considered standard of care, even in the lowest-risk disease with the most favorable prognostic features. [75]

There are 2 general approaches used to deliver radiation therapy: conventional external-beam radiotherapy (EBRT) and partial-breast irradiation (PBI). Whole-breast radiotherapy (WBRT) consists of EBRT delivered to the breast at a dose of 50-55 Gy over 5-6 weeks. This is often followed by a boost dose specifically directed to the area in the breast where the tumor was removed.

Common side effects of radiation therapy include fatigue, breast pain, swelling, and skin desquamation. Late toxicity (lasting ≥6 months after treatment) may include persistent breast edema, pain, fibrosis, and skin hyperpigmentation. Rare side effects include rib fractures, pulmonary fibrosis, cardiac disease (left breast treatment), and secondary malignancies such as radiation-induced sarcoma (0.5%).

PBI is employed in early-stage breast cancer after breast-conserving surgery as a way of delivering larger fraction sizes while maintaining a low risk of late effects. Techniques that can deliver this therapy include interstitial brachytherapy (multiple catheters placed through the breast) and intracavitary brachytherapy (a balloon catheter inserted into the lumpectomy site [ie, MammoSite]).

Treatment is typically administered twice daily for 5 days. In several nonrandomized studies, these techniques have shown low local recurrence rates comparable to those of EBRT.

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