Just one dose of radiation works as well as a full week of treatment to ease debilitating spinal pain in patients with advanced cancer, a new study shows.
Known as spinal cord compression, the condition happens when a tumor presses against the spine. It can cause pain, numbness, tingling and difficulty walking.
Radiation is often used to relieve these symptoms of spinal compression, but there is no standard recommended length of treatment, the study authors said.
They assessed 688 patients with prostate, lung, breast and gastrointestinal cancers that had spread and found that a single radiation treatment was as effective as five radiation sessions.
The patients were assessed by how well they could walk and move. The researchers found that both short-course and longer-course radiation treatments helped patients stay mobile.
The study was to be presented Friday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), in Chicago. Research presented at meetings is viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
“Our findings establish single-dose radiotherapy as the standard of care… at least for patients with a short life expectancy,” said study author Dr. Peter Hoskin, an oncologist at the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Middlesex, England.
“For patients, this means fewer hospital visits and more time with family,” he said in an ASCO news release.
“Longer radiation may be more effective for preventing regrowth of [cancer spread] in the spine than single-dose radiation. Therefore, a longer course of radiation may still be better for patients with a longer life expectancy, but we need more research to confirm this,” Hoskin said.
The Canadian Cancer Society has more on spinal cord compression.