Breast cancer: Oneshot therapy gets NHS nod

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Posted 24/07/2014

Julie Crossley 1397333021_JulieCrossleyCPX.jpg

Breast cancer: One-shot therapy gets NHS nod

A pioneering breast cancer treatment that replaces weeks of radiotherapy with a single, targeted shot is set to be offered on the NHS. The dose of radiation is delivered from inside the breast, during surgery, once a tumour has been removed. It could benefit many people and should also save the NHS money.

Draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said it would improve patients’ quality of life. The technique, called intra-operative radiation, is suitable only for patients who have caught their cancer early. Currently, those patients would have surgery to remove the tumour. They would then face at least another 15 trips to hospital for radiotherapy to kill any remaining cancerous cells. The new treatment would involve a probe being inserted into the breast just after the tumour is removed and delivering radiation to the exact site of the cancer for about half an hour.

Tests on more than 2,000 people suggest the technique has a similar level of effectiveness as conventional radiotherapy. However, as the technique has been developed recently, there is no long-term data available. As well as avoiding the inconvenience of regular hospital trips, the single dose should avoid potential damage to organs such as the heart, lung, and oesophagus – which is a risk during radiation to the whole breast. The technique works only on tumours that have not yet spread.

Previous estimates have suggested a shift to intra-operative radiation could save the NHS £15m a year. But the equipment is expensive – each probe would cost about £500,000.

Julie Crossley, a medical injury lawyer at Ashtons Legal, comments: “This is excellent news and whilst we have to bear in mind that it is a new procedure and any side effects are currently unknown the tests to date are positive. Aside from the savings financially more importantly it relieves the patient of the stress of regular trips to the hospital and more treatment and avoids the potential damage to organs of conventional radiotherapy”.


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