I have Stage 2 breast cancer and have just finished three months of chemotherapy. In one month, I will start radiation and have been offered one week of radiation instead of the more common three weeks. Does anyone have experience with this treatment plan and/or any resources on the pros and cons for choosing one or the other?
When I went through radiation 10 years ago, this was not offered. I had it daily Mon-Fri for 5.5 weeks. I do know many members here have done the 1 week cycle so hopefully they will jump in with their experience. Anecdotally, there seems to be more people offered this during covid in an effort to keep the time spent in a hospital or clinic to a minimum.
I am including some information from cancer.ca on radiation scheduling. I hope it helps
The schedule is the number of radiation therapy treatments and how often you have them. Some treatment plans last only 1 day and some may last several weeks. Usually radiation therapy is given once a day, 5 days a week, for anywhere from 1 to 8 weeks with a rest on weekends. When radiation therapy is given to relieve symptoms caused by advanced cancer (palliative radiation therapy), the course of treatment is shorter, such as a few days or 1 to 2 weeks.
Sometimes treatments are given with a different schedule, such as more than once a day or every other day.
Accelerated fractionation means giving the total dose of radiation over a shorter period of time by giving radiation more than once a day. This allows radiation treatments to be completed more quickly (for example, in 5 weeks instead of 7). Accelerated fractionation does not change the total radiation dose.
Hyperfractionation means giving the daily dose of radiation over 2 or more sessions each day. The total period of time to complete the treatment schedule is not changed. By using multiple smaller doses of radiation, a higher overall dose can be given. This may cause more damage to a cancer cell. The treatments are usually given about 4 to 6 hours apart to allow normal tissues to heal.
Hypofractionation means giving fewer larger radiation treatments over a shorter overall time. This is done by either giving a short course of larger daily treatments or giving a few large doses or a single large dose.
Radiation boost means additional radiation is given to a small area after regular radiation treatment to a larger area is finished. It is used to give additional doses of radiation to the tumour in an effort to increase the chance of controlling the tumour.
Great that you finished your chemotherapy!
Below is a link to a previous discussion in the spring about the hypofractionated radiation protocol vs. the longer radiation treatment protocol. In the discussion, we also included links to a couple articles that may be helpful.
Whichever you decide, wishing you the best possible outcome. We hope you return to tell us how you are doing or let us know if you have additional questions.
@TGM Here's the update I gave this summer after going through the 5 day treatment.
I was offered the 5 day option in Spring. It was very helpful to have people on this site chime in, since the 5 day model wasn’t used in Canada until COVID, and my radiation oncologist wasn’t at all informative. After doing some digging myself, including on this site, I agreed to the 5 day treatment. I had partial radiation.
It went fairly well. I did get some skin reaction, like a mild sunburn. Some people have stronger reactions - I was relieved I didn’t. I used lots of Glaxal cream, and occasional home made salt water compresses. Keep using the cream well after treatment is over. I asked the radiation therapists about what they observed from their patients. Anecdotally, they did say people on the 5 day approach had skin reactions more quickly, but didn't seem to particularly have worse reactions overall to the radiation.
After any radiation treatment, fatigue and itchiness are definite side effects. Walking and stretching are important to rebuild your strength.
I did develop a rash again months afterwards. The doctor checked it out and confirmed it was a normal after effect of radiation combined with the summer heat. It went away with Glaxal and cooler weather. (Note - she was glad that I asked her to check it out.)
5 days was certainly more convenient. It's fairly new - not done in the US or Canada until now. They’ve been doing it for about 5 years in the UK, so there's short term but not long term data yet. So far so good in terms of the data that is available. Not sure why some doctors aren't more forthcoming - I had to do quite a bit of legwork during a stressful time to make a decision as my doctor provided no information, even when I asked for it. I'm glad that I was able to get some info from here and elsewhere, and happy to share. We don't know the long term data yet, but it's not a totally new and untried treatment, and the shorter term data made me feel fairly comfortable that it was the right decision for me.
@TGM I did the five day course of radiation just last month. My doctor offered it to me mainly because we are four hours away from the cancer centre. I am so glad I went this route-being done on Friday and knowing I didn't have to go back was wonderful! And I really didn't have any worse or different symptoms than anyone else doing the longer sessions. The fatigue knocked me on my butt for about a week, but I never had any skin changes at all. And now, a month later, I get tired easily still, and my incision site is super itchy. I used Glaxal faithfully for a month and have now stopped, but might have to start again if the itchiness persists. Please contact me if you have any more questions. I was so grateful for this site when I was trying to decide earlier this year.