Breast Cancer Radiation Therapy

Introduction – Breast Cancer Radiation Therapy

Breast cancer radiation therapy usually involves use of medications or chemotherapy and radiations called radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses a large machine called the Linear Accelerator to deliver previously decided amounts of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation also helps to stop the rogue cancer cells from multiplying indiscriminately. Over decades researchers have shown that use of radiation therapy in women with breast cancer may prolong their lifespan especially if used along with chemotherapy and sometimes breast removal surgery.

Procedure – Breast Cancer Radiation Therapy

In many women radiation therapy follows a breast surgery or mastectomy or lumpectomy. These surgical procedures involve removal of the whole breast or of the cancer lump alone respectively. The radiation sessions may be given in conjunction with chemotherapy or hormonal therapy to prevent the cancer from reappearing in the breast.

In many women radiation therapy follows a breast surgery or mastectomy or lumpectomy.
Small marks that resemble tattoo marks are put around the area to be irradiated. Patient is advised not to wash these off or retouch them in case they are faded. These are important for the therapist to know the exact area that needs to be targeted.

On the days of therapy the radiation therapist escorts the patient into the room and positions her. The therapist leaves the rooms before the radiation session commences but the patient can hear them over the intercom. Any discomfort or change of position would bring the therapist back for repositioning and adjustment.

Post Procedure Considerations – Breast Cancer Radiation Therapy

Usually breast cancer radiation therapy is painless. But over a few sessions some women may develop some skin side effects like redness, dryness, burning of the affected area. Some women also experience tiredness and fatigue after a few sessions of radiation. This is mainly due to a sharp reduction of blood cell counts like red blood cells and white blood cells. Loss of white blood cells also leads to an increased risk of infections. Regular healthy diet, exercise helps to some extent. A healthy nutritious diet during and after completion of the radiation sessions is advised. Sometimes women may need to consult a dietician for an appropriate diet. Radiation in and around the throat often damages the lining of the throat and makes swallowing and eating difficult.

Women are advised against wearing clothing that sits tight over the irradiated area or exposing the irradiated area to too much of sun. Sun block creams should be applied before stepping out into the sun to prevent sun exposure of the irradiated parts. Women are advised not to use any method other than razors to remove the hair at the irradiated areas. Cosmetics, deodorants, perfumes should not be used over the irradiated areas.

Rare side effects include fracture of the ribs, inflammatory and other disease condition of the lungs, heart disease, scarring and other tumors called sarcoma.

View a list of important oncology associations around the world.

This article is not medical advice nor a substitute to professional health advice. Always consult a doctor.


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