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Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) assessment is a key component of clinical oncology trials. However, few breast cancer trials comparing adjuvant conventional radiotherapy (CR) and hypofractionated tomotherapy (TT) have investigated HRQOL. We compared HRQOL in stage I-II breast cancer patients who were randomized to receive either CR or TT. Tomotherapy uses an integrated computed tomography scanner to improve treatment accuracy, aiming to reduce the adverse effects of radiotherapy.
A total of 121 stage I–II breast cancer patients who had undergone breast conserving surgery (BCS) or mastectomy (MA) were randomly assigned to receive either CR or TT. CR patients received 25×2 Gy over 5 weeks, and BCS patients also received a sequential boost of 8×2 Gy over 2 weeks. TT patients received 15×2.8 Gy over 3 weeks, and BCS patients also received a simultaneous integrated boost of 15×0.6 Gy over 3 weeks. Patients completed the EORTC QLQ-C30 and BR23 questionnaires. The mean score (± standard error) was calculated at baseline, the end of radiotherapy, and at 3 months and 1, 2, and 3 years post-radiotherapy. Data were analyzed by the 'intention-to-treat' principle.
On the last day of radiotherapy, patients in both treatment arms had decreased global health status and functioning scores; increased fatigue (clinically meaningful in both treatment arms), nausea and vomiting, and constipation; decreased arm symptoms; clinically meaningful increased breast symptoms in CR patients and systemic side effects in TT patients; and slightly decreased body image and future perspective.
At 3 months post-radiotherapy, TT patients had a clinically significant increase in role- and social-functioning scores and a clinically significant decrease in fatigue. The post-radiotherapy physical-, cognitive- and emotional-functioning scores improved faster in TT patients than CR patients. TT patients also had a better long-term recovery from fatigue than CR patients. ANOVA with the Bonferroni correction did not show any significant differences between groups in HRQOL scores.
TT patients had a better improvement in global health status and role- and cognitive-functioning, and a faster recovery from fatigue, than CR patients. These results suggest that a shorter fractionation schedule may reduce the adverse effects of treatment.