Breast, lung, bowel and prostate cancer can now all be treated within a WEEK thanks to bigger doses of radiation

BREAST, lung, bowel and prostate cancers can all now be treated within a week, UK trials have shown.

Doctors have proven that bigger doses of radiation over fewer sessions can work just as well in cancer patients – causing much less disruption to their lives.

Trials have repeatedly shown the methods to be safe, without additional side effects – despite fears that higher doses of radiation could cause more damage to healthy tissue.

In the UK there are around 55,200 new cases of breast cancer in the UK every year – and 63 per cent of patients will go on to have radiotherapy as part of their initial treatment.


Women with early-stage breast cancer normally receive 15 doses of radiation to their tumour after surgery, delivered over three weeks.

But the FAST-Forward trial – led by a team at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, found that giving five larger daily doses over the course of one week is just as safe and effective.

If four weeks is as good as six weeks, or one week as good as three weeks, they prefer the shorter option.

The findings, published by the medical journal The Lancet in April, could change standard practice in the UK, making the treatment of cancer more convenient for many.

Dr Jeanette Dickson, President of the Royal College of Radiologists and a consultant lung oncologist, said: "Patients want the best treatment.

"But they also want minimal disruption to their lives. If four weeks is as good as six weeks, or one week as good as three weeks, they prefer the shorter option."

During the coronavirus pandemic, many NHS clinics have looked for ways to make treatment for cancer patients more efficient and many have adopted the new method.

As a result, a growing number of NHS patients with cancer in the breast, bowel, prostate and lung are now receiving shorter – and more convenient – courses of radiotherapy.

But cancer care has been hit hard during the lockdown.

According to Cancer Research UK, 12,750 people are waiting for cancer surgery, 6,000 fewer have received chemotherapy during lockdown and 2,800 fewer have had radiotherapy.

Dr Dickson said: "The fewer visits you have to make to the oncology centre, the less chance you have of catching an infection such as Covid-19 – either from other patients, staff, or by just being out of your home."

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