Mar 01, 2020 8:00 AM


Lisa Perkins, breast cancer patient, talks with Matthew Poppe, MD.
Lisa Perkins, breast cancer patient, talks with Matthew Poppe, MD.

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Traditionally, breast cancer patients who receive radiation get small doses almost daily over a six- to seven-week period. Radiation oncologists are now seeking to shorten that time through clinical trials.

“By giving a little more radiation each day and a smaller total dose in the end, shorter courses of radiation appear to be as safe as spreading it out—and it’s still just as effective,” says Matthew Poppe, MD, radiation oncologist and researcher at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI).

Poppe explains how shorter radiation not only saves effort for patients, but could also save lives. “There are women for whom radiation improves their survival, but they can’t take the time off work or away from home if it’s the standard radiation course. For them, it may potentially impact their survival.”

For my breast cancer patients who live more than an hour away, it means they don’t have to go on disability, they don’t have to quit their job for six weeks, they don’t have to find someone to care for their children. It’s a remarkable difference in their quality of life because of that.

Matthew Poppe, MD
Associate Professor, Radiology
Radiation Oncologist
Huntsman Cancer Institute

Currently, HCI is participating in four different clinical trials studying the benefits of shorter-course radiation. Lisa Perkins, an HCI patient being treated for early-stage breast cancer, is on one of them, called NOVEMBER (national clinical trial number 03345420). This trial gives patients a nine-day course of radiation treatment over two weeks. After treatment, follow-up takes place at two to eight weeks, six months, and annually for three years.

“For people who have a choice to do the shorter course like I did, I think it helps your quality of life and helps you move on to your next step,” Lisa says. “It went by so fast. I was grateful that I could be back closer to my family quicker.”

Learn more at huntsmancancer.org/radiation.

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