Nightly News   |  October 20, 2011

Radiation may cut breast cancer recurrence

Breast cancer surgeon Dr. Beth DuPree joins Brian Williams to explain how radiation treatments after surgery can cut the recurrence of cancer.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We're back. Important news tonight about breast cancer to share with you. It's about radiation treatments and preventing recurrence. Dr. Beth DuPree is back with us again. She is the medical director of the Breast Health Program at Holy Redeemer Health System outside Philly . Doctor, thank you for coming in.

Dr. BETH DuPREE (Breast Cancer Surgeon): Thank you.

WILLIAMS: And as I read this new data, it says that radiation, which of course is a very personal decision, part of a package of decisions, lowers the risk of spread, prevents recurrences, saves more lives, especially in the first 10 years post surgery. But I guess it's still true that it's not for everyone.

Dr. DuPREE: True. The study was important because it looked at 17 different institutions from around the world, and they looked at all of the data over a period of sometimes 10 to 20 years. And what they found was that women that had a lumpectomy or part of their breast removed to remove the cancer but kept their breast were able to decrease their chances of the cancer coming back not just locally in the breast but also systemically. And this is important because we talk about the treatment of breast cancer and radiation therapy , as we typically describe it to our patients, is a localized treatment just to the breast itself to prevent the cancer from coming back there. And what's important about this study was that it shows us that there is actually a benefit systemically, meaning outside of the breast , to decrease the chance of the cancer coming back. And that is important because as a woman sits down to have a discussion about breast cancer , she needs to know what her choices are. And I start all of my consultations with my patients with a very sound, very solid piece of information that no woman or man ever dies of breast cancer in their breast . And they all look at me with these wondering eyes. It's the cancer that spreads outside the breast that can kill us. So finding out that this data supports the fact that there's not only a decreased incidence of the cancer in the breast coming back, but also a systemic benefit may help women when they're sitting down with their doctors to come up with their treatment plan.

WILLIAMS: And in the few seconds we have remaining, you expect the part of this that actually kind of argues against mastectomies in some cases to filter down and become known in the doctor-patient relationship?

Dr. DuPREE: I think what's important for the patients to know that they don't have to remove their breast just to be able to save their life. They have to come up with a game plan based upon their age, the type of tumor that they have, the size of the breast that they have, and then come up with a plan that works for them. But no woman who has an option of keeping her breast and having a good cosmetic result and having a good local control should opt to get a mastectomy just out of fear that she's not doing enough, because the radiation can be that equalizer that helps with that process.

WILLIAMS: Dr. DuPree , thank you for coming today and for all your appearances previously on NIGHTLY NEWS . We appreciate it.