Radiation therapy is usually given once a day, 5 days a week, for 3-7 weeks.
Techniques that shorten the course of treatment are under study in clinical trials. The results of these trials will decide whether these therapies become part of standard care.
After talking with your health care provider, we encourage you to consider joining a clinical trial.
BreastCancerTrials.org in collaboration with Susan G. Komen® offers a custom matching service to help you find a clinical trial that fits your health needs.
If you or a loved one needs information or resources about clinical trials, call our Clinical Trial Information Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877- 465- 6636) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about clinical trials.
Standard radiation therapy delivers radiation to the whole breast. Accelerated partial breast irradiation delivers radiation only to the area around the tumor bed (the space where the tumor was removed during lumpectomy).
This reduces the number of treatment sessions (accelerated therapy).
Accelerated partial breast irradiation can be done using brachytherapy, 3-dimensional (3D) conformal external beam or intraoperative radiation therapy.
Although still under study, accelerated partial breast irradiation may be given outside of a clinical trial to some women who are good candidates for this type of radiation therapy.
Brachytherapy uses targeted radiation therapy placed inside the tumor bed. Implanted radiation "seeds" (interstitial radiation therapy) or a single small balloon device (intracavitary radiation therapy) can be used to deliver the radiation.
Some studies suggest accelerated partial breast irradiation with brachytherapy may be as effective as standard radiation therapy in reducing rates of breast cancer recurrence in some women [15-16].
Which women are the best candidates for brachytherapy is still under study [9,17-18]. It’s also not clear whether the cosmetic look of the breast is as good with brachytherapy as with standard radiation therapy [9,17-18,211].
Brachytherapy is available at some medical centers and may be an appropriate option for some women. However, its long-term safety and effectiveness are still under study.
3D conformal external beam radiation therapy uses standard external beam radiation, but only targets the tumor bed.
One large study found 3D conformal external beam radiation therapy and standard radiation therapy had similar rates of recurrence and survival at 5 years . However, follow-up time was short and longer-term data are needed.
Some findings suggest the cosmetic look of the breast may be poorer with 3D conformal external beam radiation therapy than with standard radiation therapy . Other findings suggest the cosmetic look may be similar to or even better than with standard therapy .
Some women may be appropriate for treatment with 3D conformal external beam radiation therapy outside of a clinical trial .
With intra-operative radiation therapy, a single dose of radiation is given to the tumor bed during a lumpectomy. This dose of radiation is higher than in a standard radiation session.
Some findings suggest intra-operative radiation therapy is less effective than standard radiation therapy at reducing rates of breast cancer recurrence .
Intra-operative radiation therapy needs further study before its risks and benefits are fully known. At this time, it should only be done as part of a clinical trial. It’s mainly under study in Europe.
Circulating tumor cells may help predict recurrence and survival in people with early breast cancer [216-218].
Some studies have found women with more circulating tumor cells had a worse prognosis than women who had few or no circulating tumor cells [216-218].
At this time, circulating tumor cell tests (sometimes called liquid biopsies) should not be used to guide treatment.
Circulating tumor cell levels may also help predict survival for people with metastatic breast cancer [54-55].
These topics are under study.
Our commitment to research
At Susan G. Komen®, we are committed to saving lives by meeting the most critical needs in our communities and investing in breakthrough research to prevent and cure breast cancer. Our Research Program is an essential driving force for achieving this mission. Since our inception in 1982, Komen has provided funding to support research grants that have greatly expanded our knowledge of breast cancer and helped us understand that breast cancer is not just a single disease but many diseases, unique to each individual. Going forward, our commitment to research will contribute significantly to our ability to achieve our Bold Goal of reducing the current number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent by 2026.
To date, Komen has provided more than $988M to researchers in 47 states, the District of Columbia and 22 countries to support research that has resulted in a better understanding of breast cancer; earlier detection; personalized, less invasive treatments for what was once a “one-treatment-fits-all” disease; and improvements in both quality of life and survival rates.
Learn more about our continuing investment in research and the exciting research that we are funding, because nothing would make us happier than ending breast cancer forever.
Interactive Treatment Navigation Tool
Breast Cancer Clinical Trial Information Helpline
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)
What gives you strength during treatment?