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8th July 2016

Positive patient experience of ‘single dose’ radiotherapy for early stage breast cancer

In the South East of England, a patient experience study of 18 early stage cancer patients who opted for single dose intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT), found positive patient reported outcomes for this alternative to standard daily external beam radiotherapy (EBRT).

All participants felt well supported through treatment decision making and patients reported less pain than anticipated. After one month, 89 per cent of patients rated their recovery as good, very good or excellent and 84 per cent returned to full daily activities within four weeks of IORT treatment. The study was conducted at the Spire Montefiore Hospital in Hove.

For appropriate early stage breast cancer patients only, the ‘single dose’ radiotherapy option can eliminate the need for EBRT, which is typically administered five days a week, over the course of three to five weeks. IORT is administered at the time of surgery immediately after the tumour is removed.

Dr Charles Zammit, Consultant Breast and Endocrine Surgeon, and Honorary Senior Lecturer at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, led the study, and said: “The South East is leading the way in the UK with this ‘single dose’ radiotherapy option for early stage breast cancer patients. The study we conducted among our patients at the Spire Montefiore Hospital, demonstrates that women who choose single doe IORT report a positive treatment experience with many returning to normal daily activities very quickly.”

IORT is administered at the point of surgery and can have appositive impact on quality of life, patient satisfaction and convenience. However, despite an initial positive response by NHS England, IORT is not yet routinely available in the UK.

Dr Richard Simcock, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Sussex Cancer Centre said, “Patients should have the option to choose the radiotherapy that is right for them. All too often treatment experience is overlooked or not deemed important. Breast cancer patients should be able to make an informed choice on the course of treatment they would prefer, particularly after an often traumatic diagnosis.”

IORT is not currently available on the NHS. NHS England has decided to wait until more clinical trial data becomes available before making decision on commissioning.

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