Two drawbacks of radiation therapy are the frequency and length of the treatment.
Treatment 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.
Learn more about clinical trials.
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).
Not everyone can have this type of radiation therapy.
Accelerated partial breast irradiation can be done using brachytherapy, three-dimensional conformal external beam or intraoperative radiation therapy.
These techniques are still under study.
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 [20-21].
However, follow-up time on these studies is short and the long-term effects of brachytherapy are not yet known.
Which women are the best candidates for brachytherapy is still under study [12,22-24]. It’s also not clear whether the cosmetic look of the breast is as good with brachytherapy as with standard radiation therapy [12,22-24].
Although brachytherapy is available at some medical centers and may be appropriate in select cases, its long-term safety and effectiveness are still under study.
Three-dimensional (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 better than with standard therapy .
In general, this therapy should only be given as part of a clinical trial. However, select women may be appropriate for treatment outside of a clinical trial .
With intra-operative radiation therapy, a single dose of radiation is given to the tumor bed during 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 under study mainly in Europe.
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 $956M to researchers in 48 states and 21 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.
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