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Study: Don't Delay Radiation

December 4, 2008, 4:25 PM by Kelli Grant

Study: Don't Delay Radiation
For years doctors have pushed the significance of radiation in treating breast cancer. But, a new study is now backing them up. 

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College developed a study that underlines the importance of fast, complete radiation treatment for breast cancer patients. That's because without it, for some older women the cancer is not only coming back, many are also more likely to die. 

When Elizabeth Morris was diagnosed with early breast cancer, she knew the clock was ticking. 

Morris says, “I'm a person. When there's something there, I want it out I want it taken care of." 

The 83-year-old made sure she was quickly treated with radiation. And her fast, thorough action may help save her life. 

Researchers found that for women over 64 with early breast cancer, delays in radiation after surgery significantly increased the risk of the cancer coming back. 

Dr. Mary Katherine Hayes, of Weill Cornell Medical College says, “If you wait a long, long time, you're allowing those cells that we know are there hiding somewhere to grow." 

And the researchers found that the treatment one in five older female patients receives is delayed or even incomplete, which lowers their survival rate. 

The women who didn't fully complete radiation were 32 percent more likely to die. 

Heather Taffet Gold of Weill Cornell Medical College says, "Their care isn't being coordinated very well. Or they don't know the importance of seeking and obtaining timely and complete radiation treatment." 

Morris is counting on her treatment. 

Morris says, “The hope is, with the radiation, it will slow any return of any cancer." 

She believes, with proper care, you can beat cancer at any age. 

The study found that women whose treatment was delayed by 12 weeks were 4 times more likely to develop another breast tumor. It also found that the majority of the under-treated patients lived in high poverty areas.

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