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Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2008 Sep;20(7):506-12. doi: 10.1016/j.clon.2008.04.013. Epub 2008 Jun 3.

Palliative radiotherapy for women with breast cancer.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Cross Cancer Institute, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.



Palliative radiotherapy (PRT) plays an important role in women with metastatic breast cancer. However, not all cancer patients with an indication for PRT receive it. The aim of this study was to measure the use of PRT for women who have died of breast cancer in the Canadian province of Alberta, and to identify factors that might affect this use.


All women who died of breast cancer in Alberta between 2000 and 2004 were identified from the Alberta Cancer Registry. PRT, defined as any radiotherapy given with palliative intent, was abstracted from the radiotherapy databases of the treatment facilities of the Alberta Cancer Board (ACB). The variables evaluated were: age at death, regional health authority (RHA), driving distance to nearest radiotherapy facility, receipt of initial treatment at an ACB facility, receipt of radiotherapy as part if initial treatment, residence in a city with an ACB facility, residence in a city with radiotherapy facilities or visiting radiation oncologists, median household income, and municipality population. Backwards stepwise logistic regression was used to determine the final set of predictor variables for the use of PRT.


In total, 1906 women were identified as having died of breast cancer between 2000 and 2004, inclusive. Of these, 50.4% received at least one course of PRT. Factors associated with not receiving PRT in the final multiple logistic regression model for women who lived outside of the cities with radiotherapy facilities were: age>75 years, community size>10,000, median income<$47,000, and residence in RHA 4. For women living in cities with radiotherapy facilities, only age was significant.


There are many factors that influence the receipt of PRT in Alberta that are unrelated to patient need. The education of physicians and patients, as well as the establishment of more radiotherapy facilities, will help to improve the use of PRT.

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