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Radiation therapy for breast cancer

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Once you are diagnosed with breast cancer, it is better that you start off with the treatment without any delay. The major treatment for breast cancer is radiation therapy or as popularly known as radiotherapy. This is most known effective and targeted ways to kill and destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy is effective in all stages of cancer even to people who are in their Stage 1V of cancer. Radiation therapy helps to prevent the spread of cancer cells to the other tissues and cells in the body.

Based on the individual stages of cancer radiation therapy and the sequence are decided. The radiation therapy should be done under the close supervision of an experienced oncologist.

How is the therapy done and different types of radiation therapies?

Breast cancer radiation therapy can destroy untraceable cancer cells in the breast and in the armpit region, thereby preventing the reoccurrence of cancer. Most importantly radiation therapy is done only after the breast preservation surgery and specifically after three to four weeks of surgery.

There are two types of radiation therapy; External Beam Breast Cancer Radiation and Internal Breast Cancer Radiation. But the type of therapy and treatment are decided by the Oncologist. 

External Beam Breast Cancer radiation: This type of radiation therapy generally used in the treatment of breast cancer and it is the traditional therapy or whole breast therapy. In this a beam of rays is focused for three to four minutes, on the area where there is a cancerous growth. This therapy is to be repeated up to five days a week for the duration of five to six weeks. For some of the acute cases the frequency of radiation depends on the stage of cancer.

Internal Breast Cancer Radiation: As the name suggests, the therapy involves the surgeon inserting radioactive liquid using needles or catheter to the targeted area, here the closer tissue and cells are also targeted to destroy any remaining cancer cells. This treatment avoids the radiation to the whole breast area.

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Side effects of Radiation therapy

Although radiation therapy is the most effective treatments for breast cancer, it has side effects as well. As the radiation passes through the skin and skin reactions are the most common, you can expect to have side effects ranging from mild to severe. The skin irritation and changes are temporary and will go away gradually after the completion of treatment.  

Fatigue is another common side effect after the radiation treatment, which is mainly due to the body repairing to the damages. A feeling of weakness will also be there, taking proper rest is what you can do to cope up with this.

Hair loss is the most common noticeable side effects that most people are worried about. Due to the radiation therapy and weakness loss of hair will be there, but the hair is sure to grow back after the treatment. 

There can be some long term changes that can happen to you is the darkening of the skin, your skin becoming sensitive, hardening of breast skin and sometimes there can be a visible change in the size of the breasts.


How can you reduce the irritation of radiation therapy?

It is true that there will be side effects of radiation therapy, but you can avoid the irritation and troubles if you can be a little bit cautious. 

Do not rub or scratch the area where the radiation treatment has been done

Take care to not to apply any creams, perfumes or lotions on the area.

Do not wear tight fitting clothes

Take proper rest and eat a well balanced diet.

It is common and normal to be worried, depressed and anxious about your treatment. After the treatment you will feel tired and this can add to your worries and fear, you need to speak to your doctor who can give you advice, support and help you to get back to your life.

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: June 20, 2013