New fast-track breast cancer treatment takes just FIVE DAYS instead of the standard three weeks

In Clinical Studies News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Ben Spencer


  • An NHS trial reveals a five-day course of radiotherapy is as good as three weeks 
  • The high-dosage is proven to be as safe as the standard breast cancer treatment 
  • Hospitals are using the fast-track regime as it reduces coronavirus exposure  
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Nearly 35,000 breast cancer patients a year are set to benefit from a new fast-track approach to radiotherapy.

A major NHS trial reveals a five-day course of radiotherapy is just as good as the standard three-week treatment.

It found that treating women with high-dose radiotherapy over five days was as effective and safe as using lower doses over 15 days.

Hospitals have already started adopting the new fast-track regime as it also reduces coronavirus exposure and lessens the burden on the NHS.

Around 34,700 women undergo radiotherapy for breast cancer in the UK each year – 63 per cent of all patients with the tumours.

The procedure is given after women have a tumour surgically removed and is designed to eradicate remaining cancer cells to ensure it does not return.

The traditional technique involves daily radiotherapy sessions in hospital – Monday to Friday – for three weeks. Experts say the latest findings will lead to a rapid change.

Usually it take months for a different approach to filter across the NHS. But hospitals are currently desperate to implement measures which can reduce patient visits.

A total of 97 NHS hospitals were involved in the trial which involved 4,000 women and was led by the Institute of Cancer Research in London.

Professor Judith Bliss, of the institute, said: ‘No one would want to come up to hospital for three weeks of radiotherapy if they can get the same benefit in just one week.’

In the trial, a third of women received the standard schedule of 15 daily doses of radiotherapy, with each session involving 2.7 Gray – a unit of radiation.

The remaining patients were split into two groups, each receiving five treatments over a week. One group was given 5.2 Gray and one of 5.4.

The scientists then monitored the patients for five years and found the chances of breast cancer coming back was almost identical for each group. Side effects were also similar.

They have now suggested that the five-day schedule, with 5.2 Gray given per dose, should be considered the new best standard of care.

Professor Nick Lemoine, of the National Institute for Health Research, which paid for the trial, said: ‘This study shows how innovation can be both clinical and cost-effective.’

The findings were published in The Lancet journal.