Tens of thousands of breast cancer sufferers could benefit from an “innovative” new type of radiotherapy which could be delivered during surgery instead of making them take a course of treatment.
Intrabeam radiotherapy has been given a provisional go-ahead for NHS use by the health finance watchdog.
In new draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Care excellence (Nice) said that the treatment option should be considered for people with early stage breast cancer.
A single dose of radiotherapy could be “more convenient” for patients, Nice said
Some patients have to make 15 additional trips to hospital for radiotherapy but the latest treatment can be given during breast surgery, reducing the “disruption, stress and inconvenience” for sufferers, charity Breakthr ough Breast Cancer said.
The charity said that the “revolutionary” treatment would not only cause less hassle for patients but it would also save the NHS time and money.
“This is great news for early breast cancer patients due for breast conserving operations,” Sally Greenbrook, senior policy officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said.
“Intrabeam is unique in that it is given during surgery, avoiding the need for weeks of follow up appointments and for many women, this is all the treatment they need.
“As this is a new technology, patients will need to be made aware of the pros and cons before going ahead.
“However, this technique can greatly reduce the disruption, stress and inconvenience of what for some people can be over 15 additional trips to and from hospital as well as saving the NHS money and time.
“Whilst this is just an initial decision from Nice we look forward to their final decision which we very much hope will remain positive.”
Nice said that because the novel technique was a new treatment option it was recommending its use in a “controlled way”.
It said patients should be fully informed about the pros and cons of treatment.
And t he new draft guidance, which has been put out to consultation, also stated that patients who had been given the treatment should be put on a national register and calls for experts to review the outcomes.
Professor Carole Longson, director of health technology evaluation at Nice, 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.
“Whilst current evidence was not extensive, this type of radiotherapy was more convenient for patients and can improve a person’s quality of life.
“It’s still a new treatment – so far only six centres in the UK have used the Intrabeam Radiotherapy System to treat early breast cancer.
“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.”
Every year, around 41,500 women and 300 men in England are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Nice said that around 86% of these patients, or 35,970 people each year, could potentially benefit from the treatment.
Early stage breast cancer is classed as such when the tumour is confined to the breast area and has not spread.
A Intrabeam radiotherapy machine costs £435,000 plus VAT and maintenance of the machine is expected to cost in the region of £35,000 a year.
The consultation runs until August 15, with final guidance expected later this year.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Campaign, added: ” This is an exciting development which could provide a more convenient treatment option for some women, providing they are made fully aware of the risks and benefits of the treatment.
“Like many advances in treatment, it is essential to gather more information and evidence and to ensure that this treatment is used in a carefully controlled way.”