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More breast cancer radiation therapy helps

CHICAGO, June 6 (UPI) -- Women who had whole breast radiation and radiation to regional lymph nodes have reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence, Canadian researchers say.

"These results are potentially practice-changing," lead investigator Dr. Timothy J. Whelan, a professor of oncology at McMaster University's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and lead study investigator for the NCIC Clinical Trials Group, says in a statement.

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The study involved more than 1,800 women with breast conserving surgery -- lumpectomy. Participants received whole breast radiation alone or WBI plus radiation to the surrounding lymph nodes called regional lymph node irradiation. Most of the women had one to three positive lymph nodes while 10 percent had high-risk, node-negative breast cancer. All were tracked for five years.

Preliminary findings showed a greater than 30 percent improvement in disease-free survival for those receiving regional lymph node irradiation. This resulted from a 41 percent lower rate of recurrences in the breast and lymph nodes and a 36 percent lower rate of cancer recurrence in other parts of the body, the researchers say.

There was a small but statistically significant increased risk of moderate lung inflammation and lymphedema -- excess lymphatic fluid -- in the arm on the radiated side.

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The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

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