Study: Breast Cancer Radiation Has No Harm on Immune System

Two of the most common forms of radiation treatment for early stage breast cancer do not have any effect on a woman’s immune system, according to a new study.

Researchers at Loyola’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center found that neither partial-breast radiation therapy, a five-day treatment, which usually leaves women with more energy and more quality of life post-treatment or whole-breast radiation therapy, a more extensive, six-week treatment, does not have any effect on their immune system post-treatment.

In the study, 30 women, who were more than 45 years of age and had a lumpectomy for early stage, small tumor, node-negative breast cancer, were divided into two treatment groups: whole-breast and partial-breast radiation therapy.

Psychological tests were given to all participants five times throughout the study, before the radiation therapy, three weeks after the completion of therapy and six, nine and 15 weeks following the treatment.

Tension, depression, anger, vigor and fatigue were all measured throughout the study as well as well-being during emotional, physical, functional and social levels. Appearance, illness, side effects and sexuality of patients were also studied.

Researchers collected blood samples for each test to analyze killer cells and lymphocyte subsets, some of the indicators of immune system function. Women who received partial-breast radiation therapy had increased energy, compared to women who received whole-breast cancer and suffered more stress and reduced vigor. However, neither test had a significant impact on their immune system.