A pioneering treatment for breast cancer that cuts a six-week course of tumour-destroying therapy to a single half-hour "shot" is showing success in early trials in patients.
The radiotherapy treatment, which is for use in patients with early breast cancer after they have had surgery on the tumour, is designed to kill remaining cancerous cells with a concentrated beam of radiation.
At present, women with breast cancer undergo a five to six-week course of radiotherapy treatment after surgery, involving about 20 hospital visits.
The surgery is designed to conserve as much of the breast as possible, rather than a mastectomy where the whole breast is removed, but the radiotherapy course can cause more general damage to the tissue and greater distortion to the breast.
Doctors hope that a single dose of intra-operative radiation therapy (IORT) might become more widely available.
The procedure involves placing a marble or squash ball-sized applicator into the tumour through the incision created during surgery while the patient is still under anaesthetic.
This gives out a uniform dose of low energy X-rays directly to the surrounding 2cm-deep area of the tumour bed.
In trials involving 77 patients, only two have experienced local recurrence of their cancer. The average age of the women was 66. Michael Baum, a cancer specialist involved with the trial, said that the full results had not been published yet but excitement surrounded the possibility that a one-shot treatment might be at least as effective and safe as conventional treatment.
Meanwhile, almost six out of 10 cancer sufferers had to make drastic changes to their working lives, research suggested today.
Some 57pc were forced to quit work or study, change their role or cut their hours.
Seven out of 10 saw their income fall, with their earnings cut in half on average.
Yet 80pc received no advice or warnings about the effects of cancer on their career.