Radiation therapy or radiotherapy for breast cancer helps destroy cancer cells with high doses of radiation. This article provides information regarding the same.
Breast cancer is a cause of concern, all over the world. It can occur in men too, but the percentage of its occurrence in men is very low compared to women. Most breast cancer patients undergo some type of surgery to remove a breast tumor. There are two types of surgeries: lumpectomy and mastectomy.
The former is a breast-conserving surgery which involves the removal of tumor from the breast, whereas the latter involves the removal of the entire affected breast. The patient may undergo cycles of chemotherapy after surgery. After chemotherapy, radiotherapy is suggested as it helps kill the remaining cancerous cells.
This therapy is a form of cancer treatment where the cancerous cells are targeted and killed with the help of high-intensity energy beams. The doctor may perform radiation treatments after a lumpectomy or after a mastectomy, to lower the chances of recurrence of cancer in that breast. Radiation therapy can be performed in two ways:
In this procedure, high energy beams are concentrated on the affected breast area and the lymph nodes with the help of a machine called linear accelerator. The radiation oncologist first observes the mammography charts and operation papers and then marks the area to be treated. The right dose of the beam is decided by him.
Precaution is taken to ensure that the surrounding healthy cells are not affected with radiation. The patient does not experience any kind of pain during the procedure. The treatment usually goes on for 5 days a week for 5-7 weeks, depending upon the spread of the cancer. Sometimes, intraoperative radiation in the form of a single dose of radiation is also given to the patient, in the operation room itself, after the surgery and before closing the opened part of the breast.
This procedure is called brachytherapy, wherein small pieces of radioactive material called ‘seeds’ are placed in the site from where the cancerous tissue is removed. As the area closest to the tumor site is highly prone to recurrence of cancer, seeds are kept there to emit radiation into the surrounding tissues and kill the growth of cancer cells. There are different methods of delivering internal radiation which use multiple catheters and balloon catheter device.
Following side effects may be noticed after the therapy:
- The target skin can look like a sunburn, with redness, itching, burning, possible peeling, and soreness.
- Increased fatigue and weakness
- Mild chest pain due to the swelling and irritation of nearby nerves
- Loss of appetite
- Discomfort and inflammation of arm pits
- Nausea, dizziness, and vomiting
- Weakened immune system
The side effects subside gradually when the treatment is over or a few days after the treatment. They may vary from patient to patient and are quite tolerable. Healthy lifestyle changes like consuming nutritious and balanced diet, mild exercise, and meditation can help prevent the adverse effects of radiation on the body.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.