Nearly 20% of breast cancer patients either delayed radiation therapy or did not finish a full course of therapy following breast-conserving surgery, and they experienced worse outcomes as a result, according to a study in Cancer.
They found that 16% experienced a delay in the onset of radiation therapy of at least 8 weeks following surgery, and 3% did not complete a full course of therapy, defined as less than 3 weeks instead of the usual course of 5-7 weeks.
African-Americans were 50% more likely to delay treatment, and women living in high poverty areas were less likely to complete their treatments.
Women who delayed radiation therapy for at least 8 weeks were 40% more likely to experience a recurrence of breast cancer. Those who waited more than 12 weeks were 4 times more likely to experience a recurrence.
Patients who did not complete their radiation therapy had a 32% higher mortality.
“One of the big problems is that care has to be coordinated to avoid these kinds of delays and lack of completion, especially for patients from a lower socioeconomic status,” study leader Heather Taffet Gold told the New York Times.
That’s easier said than done.