Post-operative radiotherapy (PORT) is thought to reduce the recurrence of tumours, but the benefits may be cancelled out by the damage it can cause the heart and lungs, particularly in seniors.
The findings of this study fuels the ongoing debate over how much treatment older cancer patients should receive as the medication itself takes a heavy toll on the elderly, and the fact that they may not live long enough to experience the benefits of the treatment.
“The marginal benefit of the additional treatment gets smaller and smaller as patients get older,” Dr David J. Sher, a radiation expert at Rush University Medical Center in the US said in a Reuters Health report. Sher was not involved in the actual study.
Dr Juan Wisnivesky and colleagues of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the United States, analysed data on more than 1300 patients who’d had surgery for early-stage lung cancer. Such patients usually don’t receive radiation therapy, but in this group the cancer had spread to lymph nodes in the chest.
Although investigators accounted for patient characteristics such as tumour size and type of surgery, that may have influenced the outcome, they could find no benefit linked to radiation therapy after surgery.
There is currently a rigorous clinical trial underway that may shed more light on whether postoperative radiation is a good idea for lung cancer that has invaded the lymph nodes in the chest.
The report suggests that in the interim, patients and doctors should weigh the pros and cons of treatment together.
Sources: Reuters Health