Cancer experts have long debated & continue to debate over the best timings for radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Often times, patients receive sequential therapy- first, chemotherapy and then radiation. Synchronous chemoradiation is a term used to describe when a patient receives radiation therapy at the same time as or in between cycles of chemotherapy. Which treatment option is best?
According to British experts who conducted a major scientific study, synchronous chemoradiation significantly reduces the chances of the cancer returning in women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.
This study involved 2300 women treated at 48 different centers throughout the UK. Patients studied underwent mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery and were randomized to synchronous (concurrent or between-cycle) or sequential chemoradiation. All patients received either CMF or anthracycline-CMF chemotherapy. The results: When compared to the standard approach (first chemo, then radiation), giving both treatments at the same time reduced the risk of local cancer recurrence by 35%.
Beyond the reduced risk of recurrence, patients found synchronous chemoradiation resulted in a shorter treatment duration. And the side effects of receiving chemo & radiation at the same time appear to be minimal (when compared to those receiving the treatments sequentially) and does not undermine the patient’s quality of life. However, long-term follow-up is still be necessary to assess potential late side effects.
Dr. Indrajit Fernando, MD, of the University of Birmingham in England, said that at this time, there were no differences in overall survival rates between the two groups after five years, but that he would expect to see survival rates rise in larger groups of patients over a longer time period.
So if you have been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, talk to your doctor about synchronous chemoradiation. Is this a good treatment option for you? Get educated… Advocate… Feel empowered!