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Journal of clinical oncology


PURPOSE: Understanding acute toxicities after whole-breast radiotherapy is important to inform patients, guide treatment decisions, and target supportive care. We evaluated patient-reported outcomes prospectively collected from a cohort of patients with breast cancer.

METHODS: We describe the maximal toxicity reported by 8,711 patients treated between 2012 and 2019 at 27 practices. Multivariable models identified characteristics associated with (1) breast pain, (2) bother from itching, stinging/burning, swelling, or hurting of the treated breast, and (3) fatigue within 7 days of completing whole-breast radiotherapy.

RESULTS: Moderate or severe breast pain was reported by 3,233 (37.1%): 1,282 (28.9%) of those receiving hypofractionation and 1,951 (45.7%) of those receiving conventional fractionation. Frequent bother from at least one breast symptom was reported by 4,424 (50.8%): 1,833 (41.3%) after hypofractionation and 2,591 (60.7%) after conventional fractionation. Severe fatigue was reported by 2,008 (23.1%): 843 (19.0%) after hypofractionation and 1,165 (27.3%) after conventional fractionation. Among patients receiving hypofractionated radiotherapy, younger age (P < .001), higher body mass index (BMI; P < .001), Black (P < .001) or other race (P = .002), smoking status (P < .001), larger breast volume (P = .002), lack of chemotherapy receipt (P = .004), receipt of boost treatment (P < .001), and treatment at a nonteaching center predicted breast pain. Among patients receiving conventionally fractionated radiotherapy, younger age (P < .001), higher BMI (P = .003), Black (P < .001) or other race (P = .002), diabetes (P = .001), smoking status (P < .001), and larger breast volume (P < .001) predicted breast pain.

CONCLUSION: In this large observational data set, substantial differences existed according to radiotherapy dose fractionation. Race-related differences in pain existed despite controlling for multiple other factors; additional research is needed to understand what drives these differences to target potentially modifiable factors. Intensifying supportive care may be appropriate for subgroups identified as being vulnerable to greater toxicity.

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