Purpose: To prospectively study the effects of loco-regional radiotherapy in women with breast cancer.
Methods and materials: Thirty consecutive patients with breast resection underwent clinical, lung function, radiographic, and thoracic high-resolution computed tomography evaluation before and at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after adjuvant radiotherapy. Chemotherapy was also administered to 15 patients.
Results: Nineteen patients reported mild respiratory symptoms at 1 month, which resolved completely at 6 months after radiotherapy. Opacities were present on 80% of chest radiographs and in all patients on high-resolution computed tomography by 3 months. These opacities became compact and persisted on high-resolution computed tomography at 12 months. Lung function indices, including FEV1, FVC, TLC, and DLCO, progressively declined after radiotherapy, and was irreversible at 12 months (p < 0.05). Patients who received chemotherapy did not have significantly different lung function indices compared with their counterparts at all time points (p > 0.05).
Conclusions: Our results have shown that adjuvant loco-regional radiotherapy, a common practice in breast cancer treatment, is associated with irreversible reduction in lung function parameters. These changes are accompanied by radiological evidence of persistent lung injury. Further studies should be performed to evaluate the incidence and long-term pulmonary sequelae of current treatment for breast cancer.