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.
By Ashley Ross and Sophie Banay Moura
Cancer: The word alone can paralyze us. Instead of protecting ourselves, we resort to magical thinking—it won't happen to me. That's a mistake. Rates of the top five cancers in women 20 to 39—in order, they are breast, thyroid, melanoma, cervical, and colorectal—are rising. The good news: There's a lot you can do to prevent them. We talked to the country's top doctors and mined the latest research for Marie Claire's first-ever cancer crash course. Here, how...
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
Brachytherapy is often used with external
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.
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
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
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.