Purpose: To study the time spent with radiation-induced dermatitis during a course of radiation therapy for breast cancer in women treated with conventional or intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).
Methods and materials: The study population consisted of 804 consecutive women with early-stage breast cancer treated with breast-conserving surgery and radiation from 2001 to 2006. All patients were treated with whole-breast radiation followed by a boost to the tumor bed. Whole-breast radiation consisted of conventional wedged photon tangents (n = 405) earlier in the study period and mostly of photon IMRT (n = 399) in later years. All patients had acute dermatitis graded each week of treatment.
Results: The breakdown of the cases of maximum acute dermatitis by grade was as follows: 3%, Grade 0; 34%, Grade 1; 61%, Grade 2; and 2%, Grade 3. The breakdown of cases of maximum toxicity by technique was as follows: 48%, Grade 0/1, and 52%, Grade 2/3, for IMRT; and 25%, Grade 0/1, and 75%, Grade 2/3, for conventional radiation therapy (p < 0.0001). The IMRT patients spent 82% of weeks during treatment with Grade 0/1 dermatitis and 18% with Grade 2/3 dermatitis, compared with 29% and 71% of patients, respectively, treated with conventional radiation (p < 0.0001). Furthermore, the time spent with Grade 2/3 toxicity was decreased in IMRT patients with small (p = 0.0015), medium (p < 0.0001), and large (p < 0.0001) breasts.
Conclusions: Breast IMRT is associated with a significant decrease both in the time spent during treatment with Grade 2/3 dermatitis and in the maximum severity of dermatitis compared with that associated with conventional radiation, regardless of breast size.