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A new hope for early-stage breast cancer: 1-week radiotherapy, as safe and effective as longer courses

The standard is that women undergoing early-stage breast cancer treatment following their primary surgery are given 3 weeks of radiotherapy. However, now, researchers are reporting that an ultra-short 1-week radiotherapy course works just the same as the standard 3-week regimen.

“Since it’s a shorter treatment, could it work as effectively as the conventional 3-week long course on one’s health?”

“Does the 1-week radiotherapy deliver the same impact as the standard 3-week schedule?”

If these questions arise in your musings, they do not come off as a surprise, or unexpected. In fact, they are only reasonable and logical enough to be answered and backed up by well-established research studies. Read on to find out more.

1-week treatment vs 3-week treatment

Proven conclusion from FAST-Forward trial conducted in the UK: 1-week radiotherapy is just as safe and effective as the standard 3-week radiotherapy course for post-surgery early-stage breast cancer patients.

This result is coming from a multicenter, randomised, non-inferiority research study named FAST-Forward. Meaning to say, it was an assiduous research, comprehensively and thoroughly carried out at more than one medical institution (i.e., 47 radiotherapy centres, 50 referring hospitals) and among several sample groups to achieve an outcome that is as reliable and valid as possible. The aim? To verify whether the new 1-week fast-forward radiotherapy course is not inferior to the traditional 3-week course for patients diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.

Done in the United Kingdom and involving more than 4,000 early-stage breast cancer patients who had undergone either lumpectomy or mastectomy, the pioneering FAST-Forward study evaluated the efficacy of both 1-week treatment and 3-week treatment of radiotherapy on the patients concerned.

After 5 years of follow-up, the outcome of the study, as published in The Lancet, has confirmed that a 1-week, hypofractionated or accelerated radiotherapy schedule, which is poised to deliver 5 fractions or treatments in 1 week, is equally as safe and effective as the current 3-week standard, which is given in 15 fractions over the course of 3 weeks.

“This also brings us to another key takeaway – that a shortened, or 1-week schedule of radiation therapy reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence, similar to the standard 3-week radiotherapy, without any significant increase in the side effects.” said Dr Jasmin, a consultant radiation oncologist at Beacon Hospital.

Suffice to say, as far as adjuvant treatment for breast cancer at its early stage is concerned, a 1-week instead of 3-week long radiotherapy session should indeed, suffice.

Nonetheless, it is important to note that one’s eligibility for the 1-week radiotherapy programme is subjected to post-surgery early-stage breast cancer patients with certain pathology criteria*, as well as their respective oncologist’s advice.

Still, the ultra-short 1-week radiotherapy confers a few major benefits to the patients.

What this means for you: Top 3 reasons to go for 1-week radiotherapy

  • It’s just as safe and effective as the longer course

This cannot be overstated, as evidenced by the result of the FAST-Forward clinical trial showing that both the shorter and longer courses of early-stage breast cancer adjuvant radiotherapy treatment could keep cancer from returning back at the same capacity.

  • Saves money

A 1-week radiotherapy requires lesser fractions or number of treatments, as compared to the usual 3-week course; that is to say, 5 fractions over 1 week vs 15 fractions over 3 weeks. Hence, naturally, cost is lowered, financial burden can be reduced, and more money saved. Yet, at a reduced cost and shorter period of time spent, one can still receive the full-fledged benefits of the costlier, longer 3-week radiotherapy treatment.

  • More convenience

With lesser radiotherapy treatment/fractions also means lesser trips to the hospital and, in return, more convenience, as patients can save the hassle of traveling, thereby leaving them with more time for themselves.

The future of post-surgery early-stage breast cancer treatment is here and now

Yes, the 1-week radiotherapy treatment is inarguably unprecedented. But it has since revolutionised the scene of treatment for early-stage breast cancer, by condensing all the efficiency and impact of a conventional 3-week long radiotherapy regime into a compact, shortened course that takes only one week.

Overall, the 1-week radiotherapy treatment is set to be the new and proven standard of care. Offering better convenience, savings, and being as safe and effective as its traditional, longer 3-week counterpart, the 1-week adjuvant radiotherapy treatment for early-stage breast cancer is specially tailored to provide improved patient experience, while delivering you the next frontier in breast cancer treatment at a lesser cost.

If you or your loved ones are needing a quality but more affordable post-surgery early-stage breast cancer treatment, the 1-week radiotherapy treatment may just be the one to bridge the gap. Get in touch with us to understand more about this novel treatment or feel free to let us know how best we could help you.

Information By:

Dr Jasmin Loh Pei Yuin

Consultant Radiation Oncologist

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