A new type of radiotherapy could transform the treatment time for breast cancer patients. The radiotherapy treatment would be provided during surgery rather than during a course of treatment.
Intrabeam radiotherapy has received provisional approval by the NHS.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) stated that the option for this treatment should be considered for those in the early stages of breast cancer. Nice said that a single radiotherapy dose may be more convenient for patients.
Breakthrough Breast Cancer, a charity, said that there are patients who have to make around 15 trips to the hospital to undergo radiotherapy, but since the new treatment could be given during surgery, it will reduce inconvenience, stress and disruption. It stated that the treatment will not only reduce the hassle for patients, but the NHS would save money and time as well.
A senior policy officer at the charity, Sally Greenbrook, said that this is good news for early cancer patients who are due to undergo breast-conserving operations. She said that the uniqueness of the treatment in that it is given during surgery and eliminates the need for several follow-up appointments, may be the only treatment required by some women.
She added that patients will need to weigh up the pros and cons before opting for this new method, and while Nice has made an initial decision, the group hope that their final decision will also be positive.
Nice stated that due to the treatment being so new, it was recommending that it is used in a controlled manner and patients should receive full information.
The draft guidance has been put out for consultation and asked that patients who are being given this treatment be placed on a national register, and the results reviewed by experts.
The director of health technology evaluation at Nice, Professor Carole Longson, said that only six UK centres have thus far used Intrabeam in the treatment of early breast cancer, which is when the tumour has not yet spread from the breast area.
Each year, about 41500 females and 300 males in England are diagnosed with breast cancer. According to Nice, about 86% or 35970 people could benefit from the treatment on an annual basis.
The Intrabeam radiotherapy machine costs £435000 excluding VAT and the maintenance cost could be about £35000 annually.
The consultation will continue until 15 August and final guidance is expected later during this year.
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