A randomized clinical trial in 2004 supported the omission of radiation treatment in elderly female patients with early-stage breast cancer.

Despite this clinical trial’s evidence, a new study reports that almost 2/3 of this group of patients continues to receive radiation treatment today.

The randomized clinical trial, regarded as the “gold standard” in evidence-based medicine, demonstrated that the administering of radiation to patients who had received surgery and the drug tamoxifen did not improve 5-year recurrence rates or survival rates in elderly women diagnosed with early-stage tumors.

Radiation therapy has been considered the standard treatment for early-stage breast cancer for many years. However it appears that practitioner are reluctant to change their ways. In a new study published in Cancer, evidence shows that the omission of radiotherapy has not been widely adopted into clinical practice.

The study found evidence that among women aged over 70, 76.5% received radiation treatment, and little to no change was observed in treatment practice before and after the publication of the 2004 study. The data was discovered during a recent assessment of the nation’s largest cancer registry, the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database. However, this particular analysis only examined the beneficiaries of Medicare, it is uncertain whether their treatment is representative of general practice patterns.

Prior to the publication of the 2004 study, 68.6% of patients had a form of radiation therapy. In comparison researchers found that from 2005-2009, 61.7% of patients received this form of treatment.

Researchers also note that after 2004, there was a slight change in the form of radiation therapy. Rather than receiving radiation treatment to the entire breast, more patient were found to receive a short course of more focused radiation treatment to a specific part of the breast.

Despite the alteration, the results still suggest that the publication of the 2004 trial results has had relatively low impact on standard practice patterns.

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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