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Johns Hopkins Health - After Lumpectomy
Issue No. 2
Date: September 24, 2008
Breast cancer patients who face radiation therapy following surgery have important decisions to make
The most common form of breast cancer surgery today is lumpectomy, which conserves the breast by removing only the cancerous mass and some surrounding tissue. That surgery is typically followed with radiation treatments that destroy any remaining cancer cells.
New partial breast radiation treatments are often touted as a quicker, more convenient alternative to the tried-and-true whole breast radiation that’s been used for decades. But women should get the facts before choosing them as an option, says radiation oncologist Fariba Asrari, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Breast Center at Green Spring Station.
“The problem with partial breast radiation is that there are no long-term studies that prove its effectiveness,” Asrari says.
In fact, whole breast radiation has been studied extensively and shown to be very well tolerated, says Johns Hopkins radiation oncologist Deborah Frassica, M.D.
But Frassica says too many questions loom about the partial breast approach.
“We really just don’t know enough about what the ideal regimen is, who the ideal patients are and what the [long-term] effects of treatments are going to be,” she says.
To help answer those questions, Johns Hopkins is part of a nationwide study comparing whole breast and partial breast radiation treatments. At its core, the study aims to identify new ways to treat breast cancer in the least disruptive way—by preserving the greatest amount of normal tissue.
“We believe caution is essential,” Frassica says. “We don’t want to lose ground just because we’re trying to make something simpler and more convenient.”
The Johns Hopkins Breast Center at Green Spring Station offers consultations and comprehensive evaluations by top breast cancer clinicians and specialists in the country in a single day.
Did You Know?
The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are being female and growing older. Most of the time, women who are diagnosed don’t have any other known risk factors. That’s why it’s so important to undergo screening mammograms beginning at age 40.
For more information about breast cancer or if you have questions about screening, diagnosis or treatment, ask our expert at hopkinsbreastcenter.org/services/ask_expert.
To make an appointment, call 877-546-1872. For more information, visit us online at hopkinsbreastcenter.org.