Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer
Radiation therapy is a form of cancer treatment that uses high levels of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing and dividing -- while minimizing damage to healthy cells.
What Types of Breast Cancer Need Radiation?
Your doctor may recommend radiation treatments after a lumpectomy (a breast-sparing surgery to remove a tumor) or after a mastectomy to lower the odds of the cancer returning in that breast.
Radiation may also be used to treat some symptoms of advanced cancer.
Treatments generally start several weeks after surgery so your body has some time to heal. If your doctor recommends chemotherapy, too, you may start chemo first.
Once radiation treatments start, you'll have small daily doses of radiation over several days or several weeks.
What Happens On Radiation Treatment Days?
The therapist will escort you into the treatment room, help you onto the table, and help place you in the right position. He or she will leave the room and start the radiation treatment.
You will be under constant observation during the treatment. Cameras and an intercom allow the therapist to see and hear you throughout the treatment. Tell your therapist right away, if you have a problem. It is very important that you hold still and stay relaxed during treatment.
The therapist will be in and out of the room to reposition the machine and change your position. The treatment machine will not touch you and you will feel nothing during the treatment.
How Does the Therapist Know I Am In the Correct Position?
The radiation therapist takes an X-ray called a "port film" on your first day of treatment and every week thereafter. Port films verify that you are being accurately positioned during your treatments.
Port films don't show how your cancer is responding.
Why Are There Marks On My Skin for Radiation Treatment?
Small marks that look like freckles are tattooed on your skin along the treatment area. They provide a permanent outline of your treatment area. Do not try to wash these marks off or retouch them if they fade. The therapist will remark the treatment area when needed.
How Should I Eat During a Course of Radiation?
Good nutrition is important to help you recover from the side effects of radiation therapy. Eating well gives you energy for activities you enjoy and helps your body heal and fight off infection.
Most importantly, nutritious meals can give you a sense of well-being.
Since eating when you don't feel well can be difficult, a dietitian can help you find ways to get the nutrients you need during treatment.