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Breast Cancer Health Center

Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

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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 External Beam Radiation?

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 re-mark 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. 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 hard, a dietitian can help you find ways to get the nutrients you need during treatment.

What Side Effects Can I Expect With External Beam Radiation?

Radiation passes through your skin. It can become red, swollen, warm, and sensitive -- as if you had a sunburn. It may peel or become moist and tender. Depending on the dose, you may lose hair or sweat less where you've been treated with radiation.

These skin reactions are common and temporary. They will usually go away gradually in 4 to 6 weeks after your last treatment. If you see skin changes outside the treated area, tell your doctor or nurse.

Long-term side effects can last beyond a year after treatment. They may include a slight darkening of the skin, enlarged pores on the breast, more or less sensitive skin, a thickening of breast tissue or skin, and a change in the size of the breast.

A rare complication of radiation is developing a new cancer or tumor where the radiation is given. Talk to your doctor about this risk.

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