Oesophageal Patients Association
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Radiation therapy: Even short interruptions increase risk of recurrence

Poster's comment: It is reasonable to assume that these alarming findings apply equally to gastro-oesophageal cancers - miss an appointment at your peril.


Even just a few interruptions may impair the efficacy of radiation therapy for cancer. According to a US study published in the "International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics", as few as 2 missed or delayed treatment appointments could increase the recurrence rate.

Scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York analysed data from 1,227 cancer patients (head and neck, breast, lung, cervix uterus or rectum) who underwent and completed radiation therapy between 2007 and 2012. Patients were considered non-compliant if they missed two or more scheduled radiation therapy appointments. This was the case in 22 per cent (226 patients). For these patients, the course was prolonged for an average of one week.

Nevertheless, the analysis showed that prolongation was unable to prevent the negative consequences of interrupting treatment. A five-year comparison showed that 16 per cent of non-compliant patients suffered a recurrence, while this was the case in only seven per cent of compliant patients. After five years, the survival rate was also higher if patients adhered to treatment schedules - it reached 83 per cent; in non-compliant patients the survival rate only reached 72 per cent.

"This study shows that the health of our patients can improve only when a course of treatment is completed in the prescribed period of time", said study author Madhur Garg. "These findings should serve as a wake-up call for physicians, patients and their caregivers about the critical need to adhere to a recommended treatment schedule."


APA/International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics (abstract)