The European Breast Cancer Conference held in Glasgow brought together experts in the field of breast cancer to present new data and new ways of thinking about risk factors treatment and treatment side effects to name a few of the topics covered.

I listened to a number of presentations on the latest research into how and when radiotherapy is given.

Should radiotherapy be delivered over a shorter period?

It’s now standard practice to deliver radiotherapy over 15 working days in early breast cancer. But a new trial will look at the safety of delivering radiotherapy over five days.

The FAST-Forward clinical trial will see whether this shorter duration of treatment will give the same benefits in terms of reducing the risk of local recurrence and late adverse effects in people with early breast cancer.

Radiotherapy for cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes

It was recently widely reported in the press that women whose breast cancer has spread to just a few lymph nodes under their arm are less likely to have their cancer come back or to die from it if they have radiotherapy after a mastectomy.

The news stories were based on new research presented at the European conference by Dr P McGale and published in The Lancet.

Dr McGale said that until now it has been uncertain whether women with early breast cancer that has spread to just one two or three lymph nodes under the arm gain any benefit from radiotherapy after a mastectomy.

His findings show that radiotherapy improves a person’s chances of remaining disease-free and reduces their risk of dying from breast cancer. ‘Our results suggest that women being treated today are likely to benefit from radiotherapy if they have any positive lymph nodes’ said Dr McGale.

Although we’re still awaiting results of another key trial (called Supremo) into radiotherapy in people with early breast cancer that has spread to fewer than three nodes Dr McGale’s findings have the potential to change practice in the not too distant future.

Find out more about radiotherapy

If you have any questions or concerns about radiotherapy or any of your treatments call our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000.