The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK has recommended intrabeam radiotherapy as a treatment option for people with early breast cancer.
In new draft guidance, NICE said that the radiotherapy treatment should be recommended for National Health Service (NHS) funding for its use in early breast cancer, provided patients are properly informed about its pros and cons and that further data are collected.
According to NICE, the new treatment has the potential to be a much more efficient form of radiotherapy.
NICE director of health technology evaluation Professor Carole Longson said: "Unlike regular radiotherapy, with the Intrabeam Radiotherapy System only one dose is required.
"This single dose is given at the same time as surgery, eliminating the need for numerous hospital visits.
"Regular radiotherapy typically requires numerous doses over a three week period, although some people may receive it for longer, and is performed weeks or months after surgery or chemotherapy.
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"The appraisal committee concluded that whilst current evidence was not extensive, this type of radiotherapy was more convenient for patients and can improve a person’s quality of life."
Every year, an estimated 41,500 women and 300 men in England are diagnosed with breast cancer, while figures suggest that around 86% of them will potentially have early breast cancer.
The draft guidance notes that intrabeam radiotherapy should be offered to NHS patients as long as doctors explain the full range of treatment options available to patients, and their associated risks and benefits.
The explanation of treatment options will allow patients to make an informed decision about whether to select Intrabeam or conventional radiotherapy.
So far, only six centres in the UK have used the Intrabeam Radiotherapy System to treat early breast cancer, NICE said in a statement.
Longson said: "Because it is still relatively new, it is only right to recommend its use in a carefully controlled way. This will ensure patients are fully aware of the risks and benefits before choosing which treatment to have and allow doctors to gather more information about the treatment."
Final guidance from NICE is expected to be published in November 2014 and until then, local NHS bodies are expected to make their own funding decisions for new treatments.
Image: Mammograms showing a normal breast (left) and a breast with cancer (right). Photo: courtesy of Morning2k.