New research increases the odds for breast cancer patients
A new PhD project from Aarhus University, Health, shows that more women who underwent an operation for breast cancer survive if they receive radiotherapy for lymph nodes along the sternum following the operation.
More women can survive breast cancer if the lymph nodes also receive radiotherapy. This is the conclusion of a new PhD project, which followed 3,071 women between the years 2002-2006. All of the women underwent an operation for breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes of the armpit. Patients with cancer in the right breast received radiotherapy which also covered the lymph nodes along the sternum, while these lymph nodes were omitted in the radiotherapy given to patients with cancer in the left breast. This was done to avoid irradiation of the heart.
"Radiotherapy of the lymph nodes led to fewer patients suffering relapses and dying of breast cancer, so this is naturally an important advance for this group of patients," says medical doctor and PhD student Lise Bech Jellesmark Thorsen, who is the person behind the project.
After eight years, 76.1 % of patients who received radiotherapy for the lymph nodes along sternum are still alive. By comparison, only 72.6 % of the patients who did not receive radiotherapy for these lymph nodes survived.
The results of the study have already resulted in all Danish patients with breast cancer which has spread to the lymph nodes of the armpit now being offered radiotherapy, of a type that is safer for the heart, for the lymph nodes along the sternum, says Lise Bech Jellesmark Thorsen.
The defence of the PhD project is open to the public and takes place on 25 March at 14:00 in the lecture theatre at the Department of Pathology, Aarhus University Hospital. The title of the project is: "Internal mammary node irradiation in early node-positive breast cancer".