Intrabeam radiotherapy ‘more effective’ for breast cancer patients

By Drum Digital
13 February 2017

A quick blast of radiotherapy during surgery could save breast cancer patients weeks of taxing treatment, the National Health Service (NHS) claims


It’s thought a single hit of high-powered Intrabeam radiotherapy in women with early-stage breast cancer while under anaesthetic, taking just 30 minutes, could prevent up to six weeks of conventional radiotherapy, which can take a toll on recipients.

The intrabeam process aims directly on the tissue instead of the whole breast while surgeons are removing a tumour, meaning there’s no need for follow-up action.

Health watchdog Nice released a draft guidance urging use of the technology through the NHS on Wednesday (08Jan17), stressing how much of a difference it would make on patients’ lives and overall wellbeing.

However, they also noted that there are still hesitations over whether the single beam makes as much of a difference as external radiotherapy in preventing the cancer from coming back.

“This is a promising new way of providing radiotherapy but the evidence needs to develop and the committee therefore recommended that its use is carefully controlled and accompanied by gathering additional information on its clinical effectiveness,” the watchdog’s Professor Carole Longson said in a statement.

Around 54,000 women in Britain are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, 75 per cent of which undergo surgery to remove the tumour and attend radiotherapy afterwards.

Although it’s warned that Intrabeam may not be appropriate for women under 50, and isn’t a guaranteed methods for all breast cancer types, those who qualify have reported less severe side effects during trials. It’s thought this is because the radiation is quickly absorbed by the internal tissue around the tumour rather than by the healthy tissue near the skin’s surface.

“Just travelling to hospital every day can be exhausting, and the potential side-effects can feel like the final straw… For many with early breast cancer, being offered just one dose of radiotherapy alongside their surgery will be a huge relief,” Dr. Emma Pennery, of Breast Cancer Care, added.

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