According to a new study published in the journal JAMA Oncology, women undergoing briefer courses of radiation therapy during early stage of breast cancer showcased better quality of life and had lower toxic levels than the ones who underwent treatment for longer periods. Researchers conducting this new study want their findings to be passed on to women for enhancing their power of making treatment decisions along with doctors.

Fractionation is quite common when it comes to radiation therapy undergone by breast cancer patients. For those who don’t know: the term “fractionation” is used for the act of dividing radiation doses into smaller fragments and administering them for a longer period. This is done for reducing the harsh effects of the therapy on the patient’s cells.

In contrast, another method called hypofractionated radiation therapy involves administration of a particular dose of radiation for a shorter period. This form of radiation therapy exposes the patient to significantly high levels of radiation in one go.

Previous studies have shown that hypofractionated radiotherapy is effective and safe as the treatment for breast cancer even when used for longer duration. However, the short-term toxic effects of this form of treatment have not been compared properly to the more widely used treatment method called fractionation.

This new study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center has assessed toxic effects experienced by women undergoing different forms of fractionation. Prognoses of those women were also reviewed.

The researchers, in partnership with the MROQC or Michigan Radiation Oncology Quality Consortium, studied all the prospectively collected data. Next, they compared different toxic effects experienced by women undergoing conventional fractionation (CF) and hypofractionation (HF).

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The toxic effects compared were experienced by patients during the course of the treatment through seven days following the treatment as well as during the follow-up phase. On the whole, the researchers managed to present 2,309 subjects who underwent elaborate toxicity assessment within a week of undergoing radiotherapy along with weekly evaluation during the treatment.

After analyzing all the available facts and figures, the researchers identified 578 patients who belonged to the HF group. Patients belonging to the other group i.e. the CF group were found to be experiencing more prominent physician-assessed skin conditions like moist desquamation, and dermatitis, and other issues such as fatigue, swelling, pain, etc.