Hypofractionation and breast cancer: A big word with a simple explanation

Hypofractionation and breast cancer: A big word with a simple explanation

Treatment for breast cancer

Treatment for breast cancer depends on the type of breast cancer or breast cancer stage you have.1  When it comes to early stage breast cancer, treatment usually involves breast conserving surgery (removing the breast cancer and some healthy tissue around it), or a mastectomy (removing the whole breast) and the possibility of radiation therapy.1

Radiation therapy following surgery in early-stage breast cancer is given to reduce the likelihood of cancer returning. Radiation therapy is where a controlled dose of radiation, usually in the form of X-rays, is used to kill or damage breast cancer cells so that they cannot grow and/or spread.1  For an in-depth summary of radiation therapy and how it is used to treat breast cancer, click here


So where does hypofractionation fit into breast cancer treatment?

When you receive radiation therapy the total dose of radiation (amount) is divided into smaller portions known as fractions. The total dose/amount of radiation you receive is usually given over a standard course of five to six weeks (generally 25–30 visits to a radiation treatment centre).2,3

Hypofractionation is when the total amount of radiation you need to treat your breast cancer is divided into fewer portions/fractions, with a slightly higher level of radiation given in each fraction.2-5


What are the benefits of hypofractionation?

Because hypofractionated radiation therapy for breast cancer involves fewer fractions, but at slightly higher doses of radiation per treatment session – your course of radiation therapy may only take 3–4 weeks.4  This means that hypofractionated radiation therapy may help to reduce the impact radiation therapy has on your everyday life.  


How effective and safe is hypofractionation radiation therapy?

Everyone’s experience of radiation therapy is different. Overall, studies have shown that hypofractionation radiation therapy may have similar outcomes and side effects when compared to standard courses of radiation therapy.3

Remember, it is important that you speak to your breast cancer treatment team about your individualised radiation therapy and what it means to your specific treatment for breast cancer.


Find out more about breast cancer here


This blog is provided for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for your own health care professional's advice. It should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any medical procedure or treatment involving the use of radiation carries risks, including skin irritation and associated pain. Individual treatment outcomes and experiences will vary.