Women whose breast cancer has spread to just a few lymph nodes under the arm could benefit from radiotherapy treatment following mastectomy, according to UK scientists.
Current NHS guidelines say that women should be offered radiotherapy if their breast cancer has spread to four or more underarm lymph nodes. But the new study, funded by Cancer Research UK, shows that radiotherapy may improve survival for women whose cancer has spread to between one and three lymph nodes and help prevent their disease from returning. Until now, there has been uncertainty over the benefits of radiotherapy in these women, said Dr Paul McGale, senior statistician at the Clinical Trial Service Unit in Oxford and an author on the study.
The researchers, who analysed results from 3,786 women from 14 trials conducted over 18 years, say that their findings offer hope for sufferers. Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head information nurse, said: “This study suggests that more women than previously thought could potentially benefit from radiotherapy following a mastectomy. “Radiotherapy is becoming more sophisticated, and 40 per cent of cancer patients who are cured now receive it as part of their treatment.” The study was funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, and the UK Medical Research Council.