New breast cancer treatment to receive Federal Government funding

Thousands of Australian women suffering from breast cancer will now be able to receive a single 30-minute radiotherapy session during surgery instead of having to undergo a six-week radiotherapy program.

From tomorrow, intra-operative radiotherapy for selected women with early breast cancer will be funded by Medicare.

Known as targeted intra-operative radiotherapy, or TARGIT, the process relies on a machine that directs radiation straight to the tissue where the tumour is located.

National Breast Cancer Foundation head of communications Melissa Millard said women who received higher doses of whole-breast radiotherapy over a shorter time period had fewer side effects and a better quality of life.

“It will be convenient as some patients needing treatment find it difficult to receive the radiotherapy because of the challenges in completing treatment with young children or the need to travel to access a treatment locations, Millard said.

“This study shows that a shorter time period of receiving radiation but undergoing a higher dose or accelerated radiotherapy will benefit Australian women.”

Breast cancer surgeon Christobel Saunders said the five-year interim analysis of her large-scale clinical trial showed the new treatment offered similar recurrence rates to external beam radiotherapy. But there were less side effects, she said.

The intra-operative approach also reduces the extent of irradiation to other parts of the body.

“I think it’s great to see the Australian government supporting this new treatment.” Professor Saunders said.

The new equipment will be a lot safer and more convenient and will save patients money and time, according to research done at QEII Medical Centre.