Early stage breast cancer

Every year, more than 50,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer, of whom around four out of five will have early stage disease. 

Around 80% of breast cancers are diagnosed in women aged 50 and over.

More than half of women having surgery for breast cancer have a breast conserving procedure. Surgery to remove the area of cancer is called a wide local excision, which is where the surgeon takes away just the cancer and a border of healthy tissue all around it. They leave behind as much healthy breast tissue as possible; this is usually followed by radiotherapy. 

Traditionally, patients in the UK are offered External Beam Radiotherapy (EBRT), which destroys any remaining cancer cells using radiation directed at the tumour. Once patients have recovered from surgery to remove their tumour, they attend the radiotherapy department at hospital for daily outpatient based treatment appointments. EBRT for breast cancer typically requires a course of radiotherapy given five days per week, over three to five weeks. 

Geographical location may influence treatment decisions when opting for chemotherapy, surgery or radiotherapy due to the daily attendance required over several weeks for radiotherapy treatment. The cost of travel to and from appointments affects 69% of people with cancer and costs them, on average, £170 a month. 

A course of radiotherapy treatment given five days per week, over three to five weeks, can present a huge burden on patients and their families in terms of travel, cost and disruption to daily life.