Hypofraction Radiation Therapy Explained

What is Hypofraction Radiation Therapy of the Breast?

Hypofraction radiationYou’ve probably heard of radiation therapy, but have you heard of hyprofraction radiation therapy of the breast?

Hypofraction radiation therapy is a type of radiation that is equally as effective as whole breast radiation therapy whether you do the boost therapy or not.

According to our Medical Director Dr. Jay Harness, “The cosmetic results are the same and of course the time is shortened considerably when it’s down to three weeks of the whole breast radiation therapy.”

Dr. Jay Harness explains hypofraction radiation therapy in the video below.

This video has been brought to you by: Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation

Transcript

Jay K. Harness:  What is hypofraction radiation therapy of the breast?  Let me share with you some important thoughts on this subject.

Hypofraction radiation therapy of the breast means doing whole breast radiation therapy, giving a little larger dose each day, and doing it over a much shorter time period.  Typical regular whole breast radiation therapy is done in five weeks and then often there is one week of a boost therapy done after that.  Where hypofraction radiation therapy is concluded in three weeks and it can be done again with or without the boost which generally adds another week. 

The hypofraction radiation therapy has been very standard in way of treating breast conservation cases in the Canada, UK, and other areas around the world and previously here at Breast Cancer Answers, we have actually reported on outcome studies that show that hypofraction radiation therapy is equally as effective as whole breast radiation therapy whether you do the boost therapy or not.  The cosmetic results are the same and of course the time is shortened considerably when it’s down to three weeks of the whole breast radiation therapy.  Now, an important study was published near the end of 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association on this very subject of hypofraction radiation therapy.  It came from the Department of Radiation Oncology of the University of Pennsylvania. 

They looked at 14 health plans from around the United States and looked at the category of patients who are typically eligible for hypofraction radiation therapy.  This includes women who are age 50 or older.  No history of chemotherapy and typically smaller breast of A-cup, B-cup small or C-cup size breast.  In this study, they also looked at women who may have had prior chemotherapy and who are under age 50. 

Now, the results I thought were quite surprising and for me at least disappointing.  Between 2008 and 2013 of all the women who could have had whole breast radiation therapy and met the typical character in fact only 35% of that received hypofraction therapy and in the group that was pushing the envelope a little bit were there have been prior chemotherapy in under age 50, it was only around 21%.  I find this disappointing because let’s face it. 

Hypofraction radiation therapy is more convenient.  There is a less of a treatment burden for the patient.  Actually, the costs of doing it are lower and yet we find that there is such a little adoption of this in the United States.  If you are patient who has had a lumpectomy, you meet the typical criteria of being 50-year-old and not having had chemotherapy and you are smaller breast size, you should be asking the radiation oncologist if you are going to be receiving hypofraction radiation therapy.  It is equally as effective, a shorter time period and lower cost.

Dr. Jay Harness is a surgeon specializing in complete breast health, breast cancer surgery, oncoplastic reconstruction, genetic screening, risk assessment and counseling, management of breast health issues and breast cancer treatment in Orange County, California. Dr. Harness completed his general surgery residency at University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers.