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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Cancer - Other Treatment


Radiation treatment is the use of high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. It lowers the risk of your cancer coming back in the breast or chest wall. Radiation therapy is used after breast-conserving surgery and sometimes after mastectomy, depending on how advanced the breast cancer is at the time of surgery.

The way radiation therapy is given will depend on the type and stage of your cancer.

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The most common way to give radiation treatment is called external beam radiation. This method of treatment exposes the skin on the chest and under the arm to a carefully focused beam of radiation.

Sometimes tiny radioactive pellets are placed in or near the tumor site. This is called brachytherapy, internal radiation, or interstitial radiation. One example is accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI).

Radiation may also be given in a single treatment, such as during surgery when a woman is having a lumpectomy.

Radiation treatment can cause many side effects. Your breast may swell and feel heavy. Fatigue is common. For information about managing side effects, see Home Treatment.

Clinical trials

You may be interested in participating in research studies called clinical trials. Clinical trials are designed to find better ways to treat cancer patients and are based on the most up-to-date information. Women who want to help with breast cancer research and those who are not cured using standard treatments may want to participate in clinical trials. These are ongoing in most parts of the United States and in some other countries for all stages of breast cancer.

Check with your doctor to see whether clinical trials are available in your area and whether you might be eligible.

Complementary therapy

People sometimes use complementary therapies along with medical treatment to help relieve symptoms and side effects of cancer treatments. Some of the complementary therapies that may be helpful include:

These mind-body treatments may help you feel better. They can make it easier to cope with treatment. They also may reduce chronic low back pain, joint pain, headaches, and pain from treatments.

Before you try a complementary therapy, talk to your doctor about the possible value and potential side effects. Let your doctor know if you are already using any such therapies. They are not meant to take the place of standard medical treatment.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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