Breast cancer radiation is used as complementary therapy usually after the patient has had lumpectomy or mastectomy, in order to prevent cancer from reoccurring in the breast. Radiation therapy (or radiotherapy) is very successful in destroying cancer cells that may remain in the breast even after surgery, reducing the reoccurrence of cancer in about 70% of cases. Radiation therapy is also safe, its side effects being quite mild and being limited to the area that is being treated. Most patients can tolerate well this kind of therapy.
Radiation therapy may be used together with chemotherapy or hormone therapy.
Other Situations When Radiation Therapy May Be Used to Cure Breast Cancer
Radiation therapy may also be used as the principal treatment for breast cancer in cases when the tumors are not safe to be removed or the patient is in poor health condition that does not allow surgery. Also, some women may choose not to have surgery and try radiation therapy instead, hoping it will cure their cancer. All decisions must be discussed with the doctor supervising your case.
Radiation therapy may also be used in cases when the cancer has spread into the body, affecting the bones and brain. It can also be used if the cancer reoccurs, in order to alleviate pain.
Breast Cancer Radiation – What to Expect
Patients start treatment a few weeks after they have had surgery; this is the amount of time necessary for the affected area to heal. Also, in cases where chemotherapy is needed, radiation therapy might start later- after the chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy is given to patients over a period of time ranging between several days and up to several weeks. During this period of time, patients will meet frequently with their doctors.
Breast cancer radiation therapy sessions will develop following a standard procedure. The patient is taken into the treatment room where the radiation therapist helps them sit on the table in the right position. Then, the therapist leaves the room in order to start offering the patient radiation treatment by operating the linear accelerator.
The patient is constantly supervised though the cameras and intercom installed in the treatment room, so they can discuss with their doctor whenever they think there is a problem. Patients must remain relaxed and must not move while receiving treatment.
The therapist will come into the room multiple times, repositioning the linear accelerator and changing patient’s position as well. The machine does not touch patients during the treatment; also patients will not experience any sensation (such as pain) while receiving radiation.
The therapist lets the patient know when the session is completed and he helps them get off the treatment table.
After the radiation therapy sessions are completed, patients meet with their doctors regularly for diagnostic X-rays and follow-up exams. Appointments are scheduled depending on how often the doctor thinks they are necessary.
Breast cancer radiation therapy is not that easy to handle emotionally speaking, so patients may need the help of a social worker or may need to join a support group, where they can openly discuss their concerns with people that understand.