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Quality of Life Innovations from the Columbia University Department of Surgery

Making Radiation Therapy Accessible to More Women
The Clinical Breast Cancer Program
Columbia University Medical Center
212-305-9676
After undergoing a lumpectomy to remove the part of the breast affected by breast cancer, most women must undergo radiation
therapy treatments to eliminate microscopic cancer cells that might remain undetected by clinical examination or breast imaging.
The standard course of radiation treatment consists of six to seven weeks of therapy, five days a week. For women who live far
from their radiation facilities, the burden associated with daily trips for almost two months can be too much to bear. As a result,
some women have curtailed therapy, or even foregone radiation therapy altogether, despite the increased risk of their cancers
recurring.
Investigators at Columbia University Medical Center are making available new options for shorter-term radiation therapy that
may ease this travel burden and enable more women to complete this critical therapy. These options may be able to shorten the
course of radiation from six or seven weeks to one month or less.
It is hoped that alleviating the time commitment associated with breast irradiation will mean more women are able to complete
the recommended course of radiation after lumpectomy. This could make it possible for more women to undergo breast
preservation surgery (lumpectomy) instead of mastectomy, especially in areas where radiation facilities are not available.