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EJC News Focus – May 2014

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Radiotherapy after mastectomy 'benefits women with 1-3 positive nodes'

Women whose breast cancer has spread to just a few lymph nodes benefit from radiotherapy after mastectomy, according to new work from the Early Breast Cancer Trialists' Collaborative Group (EBCTCG). A session at the European Breast Cancer Conference (19-21 March 2014; Glasgow, UK) heard that in women who had 1-3 positive nodes, radiotherapy after mastectomy reduced recurrence by 32% at 10 years, and breast cancer mortality by 20% at 20 years.

The EBCTCG meta-analysis included individual patient data from almost 4000 women in 14 trials. It throws light on a current grey area: what treatment to offer women with 1-3 positive nodes. The findings also back the current guidelines which, first, do not recommend radiotherapy after mastectomy for women with no sign of cancer in their lymph nodes and second, suggest substantial benefit from radiotherapy in women with four or more nodes affected.

In this month's EJC News Focus, radiotherapist Carolyn Taylor and statistician Paul McGale, both at the Clinical Trial Service Unit in Oxford, UK, describe to Helen Saul the implications of their findings in the constantly evolving field of breast cancer treatment.