DOCTORS CONTINUE PRESCRIBING UNNECESSARY RADIATION THERAPY
Despite data from a randomized clinical trial published in 2004, concerning radiation therapy in elderly female patients, doctors are still prescribing unneeded radiation treatment. The study concluded that administering radiation therapy to elderly patients diagnosed with early-stage breast tumors who had previously received surgery and medication did not show significant changes over 5-year recurrence rates or survival rates.This new evidence-based data has had little impact on treatment choices as shown in a SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program) analysis. It showed that prior to the study, from 2000-2004, 68.4% of patients received some form of radiation therapy. Compared to after the publication of the study, from 2005-2009, 61.8% received radiation therapy.
What causes this discrepancy? As history has shown, new standards of care are not readily universally accepted. Also, practitioners could be waiting for additional research and further confirmation of results. The American Society for Radiation Oncology recommend against whole-breast radiotherapy in women over 50 years of ages for early-stage breast cancer without considering a shortened treatment regimen. However, researchers say that omitting radiation therapy completely in women over 70 with early-stage breast cancer would spare the elderly patients from acute reactions associated with radiotherapy. Looking at current trends, researchers have shown that recurrence rates were low even in patients that had not received radiotherapy, proving the efficacy of recommending against radiotherapy in elderly patients. If these trends continue, practitioners will slowly start to accept and adopt the published recommendations.
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