Few mastectomy patients get proper treatment

One-fifth of women who should receive radiation after a mastectomy are not getting this potentially lifesaving treatment, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center (Ann Arbor). The study looked at 396 women who were treated with a mastectomy for breast cancer. The researchers found that 19% of women who fell clearly within guidelines recommending radiation treatment after the mastectomy did not receive that treatment. Results of the study appear online in the journal Cancer and will be published in the March 15 issue.

Post-mastectomy radiation is known to decrease the risk of cancer returning in the chest wall and has been shown to reduce mortality in high-risk patients, but there's been some debate within the cancer community about who is likely to benefit most. Current guidelines recommend radiation after mastectomy for women who had particularly large tumors or cancer in four or more of their nearby lymph nodes.

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