From a Loma Linda University Health Press Release — 17 December 2018 — Patients with early stages of breast cancer who undergo partial breast proton irradiation treatment after a lumpectomy have better quality of life post-treatment versus whole breast irradiation, a new study suggests.

Patients with early stage breast cancer — stage zero to two — are typically treated with whole breast irradiation after removal of the cancerous tumor because there is a 30 to 40 percent chance the disease will return. But partial breast proton irradiation allows physicians to target specific breast tissue and prevents organs in close proximity from being affected.

The study, recently published in the Cancer Medicine Journal, demonstrated patients undergoing partial breast proton irradiation reported less fatigue, fewer restrictions in daily activities, less breast pain, better cosmetic results and future perspective.

Lead researcher David A. Bush, MD, a radiation oncologist at Loma Linda University Health, said the results from the study allow physicians to now present another treatment option that places whole-person care at the forefront.

“Breast cancer patients can take comfort knowing they can receive an effective treatment that will minimize or eliminate long-term damage to vital organs and provide a better physical and emotional quality of life,” Bush said. “There is life after breast cancer, and patients should have access to the best possible quality of it.”

In an effort to minimize unnecessary side-effects and allow patients to have optimal quality of life post radiation, researchers at Loma Linda University Health studied partial breast proton therapy (PBPT) and compared the long-term health and well-being outcomes to standard whole breast treatment. PBPT uses targeted proton radiation that pinpoints the specified area needing the treatment. Once it is located, the beam of radiation only hits the target like a laser beam.

The alternative radiation treatment to partial breast proton irradiation is whole breast irradiation, where a radiation oncologist will use radiation on the entire breast, which can affect the treated breast as well as vital organs within close proximity to the breast — such as the heart, lungs or ribs — potentially yielding negative cosmetic and emotional effects causing a low quality of life.

The study, “Improved long-term patient-reported health and well-being outcomes of early-stage breast cancer treated with partial breast proton therapy,” evaluated patients from 2003 to 2012 and reported quality of life outcomes from 129 patients over the age of 40 that had early-stages of breast cancer and were five to 10 years post radiation treatment. Researchers compared patient-reported health and well-being outcomes of 57 patients treated with WBI five days a week for six weeks and 72 patients with PBPT in 10 daily fractions.

To qualify for the clinical trial, patients had to have a lumpectomy first, their tumor had to be smaller than 3 centimeters, the lymph nodes had to be negative and the surgical margins had to be clear.

Due to successful results, this treatment is now offered as an option to standard treatment at Loma Linda University Cancer Center.

Loma Linda University Health includes Loma Linda University’s eight professional schools, Loma Linda University Medical Center’s six hospitals and more than 900 faculty physicians located in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Established in 1905, Loma Linda University Health is a global leader in education, research and clinical care. It offers over 100 academic programs and provides quality health care to over 40,000 inpatients and 1.5 million outpatients each year. A Seventh-day Adventist organization, Loma Linda University Health is a faith-based health system with a mission “to continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ.”

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