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Study Sheds Light on Radiation Treatment Fears

Mar 01, 2018

Researchers say fears and misconceptions about radiation treatments are common among breast cancer patients, but the patients’ actual experiences with modern breast radiation therapy are better than they expected. In a survey, 93% of breast conservation patients and 81% of mastectomy patients agreed with this statement: “If future patients knew the real truth about radiation therapy, they would be less scared about treatment.”

Published in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society, the study found only 2% of patients agreed that the negative stories they previously heard about radiation therapy were actually true. Approximately 83% reported short-term radiation side effects such as breast pain, work limitations and family disruptions were less than or as expected. Eighty-four percent of patients said long-term side effects also were less than or as expected.

“The word radiation itself sounds frightening and is associated with many negative news stories, but the implications of this study are that, in actuality, radiation therapy for breast cancer is a much better treatment experience than perceived,” said lead author Susan McCloskey, M.D., in a news release.  She added that she hopes the study can give future patients a better understanding of modern breast radiation therapy when making treatment decisions.

Five hundred and two patients were surveyed, with 327 patients responding. The median patient age in the study was 59.

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