Intraoperative radiotherapy for early breast cancer: do health professionals choose convenience or risk?

Tammy Corica, David Joseph, Christobel Saunders, Max Bulsara, Anna K Nowak
Radiation Oncology 2014 January 25, 9: 33

BACKGROUND: The randomized TARGIT trial comparing experimental intra-operative radiotherapy (IORT) to up to 7 weeks of daily conventional external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) recruited participants in Western Australia between 2003 and 2012. We aimed to understand preferences for this evolving radiotherapy treatment for early breast cancer (EBC) in health professionals, and how they changed over time and in response to emerging data. Preferences for single dose IORT or EBRT for EBC were elicited in 2004 and 2011, together with factors that may be associated with these preferences.

METHODS: Western Australian health professionals working with breast cancer patients were invited to complete a validated, self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire used hypothetical scenarios and trade-off methodology to determine the maximum increase in risk of local recurrence health professionals were willing to accept in order to have a single dose of IORT in the place of EBRT if they were faced with this decision themselves.

RESULTS: Health professional characteristics were similar across the two time points although 2011 included a higher number of nurse (49% vs. 36%) and allied health (10% vs. 4%) participants and a lower number of radiation therapists (17% vs. 32% ) compared to 2004.Health professional preferences varied, with 7.5% and 3% judging IORT unacceptable at any risk, 18% and 21% judging IORT acceptable only if offering an equivalent risk, 56% and 59% judging IORT acceptable with a low maximum increase in risk (1-3%) and 19% and 17% judging a high maximum increase in risk acceptable (4-5%), in 2004 and 2011 respectively. A significantly greater number of nurses accepted IORT as a treatment option in 2011.

CONCLUSIONS: Most Western Australian health professionals working with breast cancer patients are willing to accept an increase in risk of local recurrence in order to replace EBRT with IORT in a hypothetical setting. This finding was consistent over two time points spanning 7 years despite the duration of clinical experience with IORT and the publication of the early clinical results of IORT in 2010. These results need to be compared with preferences elicited from patient groups, and further investigation into the impact of personal preferences on health professionals' advice to patients is warranted.

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