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Breast cancer radiotherapy treatments calculated to have environmental impact

Giving radiotherapy during surgery to early-stage breast cancer patients could save millions of travel miles and carbon dioxide emissions, according to a study.

Giving radiotherapy during surgery to early-stage breast cancer patients could save millions of travel miles and carbon dioxide emissions, according to a study.

Picture credit: Science Photo Library

The standard treatment for early breast cancer is lumpectomy – surgery to remove cancerous tissue – followed by a course of radiotherapy delivered daily for three to six weeks.

If a single dose intraoperative radiotherapy, known as TARGIT, is administered during surgery, then in most cases daily hospital visits for standard radiotherapy, known as external beam radiotherapy (EBRT), are avoided. TARGIT is not yet widely available in the UK’s 62 hospitals with radiotherapy units.

Researchers looked at the travel implications, journey times and environmental impact of TARGIT and EBRT in 485 patients, 249 of whom were randomly assigned to TARGIT and 236 of them to EBRT.

In total, TARGIT patients were found to have travelled 21,681 miles for treatment while EBRT patients travelled 92,591 miles. TARGIT patients spent three hours travelling compared with 14 hours for EBRT. The TARGIT patients’ journeys emitted 24.7 kg of CO2 and EBRT patients’ 111kg.

About three quarters of the 50,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the UK each year are treated with lumpectomy and EBRT. The researchers calculated that if TARGIT was widely available it would save five million journey miles, 170,000 hours’ travel time and 1,200 tonnes of CO2.

Reference

Coombs N et al (2016) Environmental and social benefits of the targeted intraoperative radiotherapy for breast cancer: data from UK TARGIT-A trial centres and two UK NHS hospitals offering TARGIT IORT. BMJ.

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