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How Is Radiation Given For Breast Cancer

Skin Irritation In The Treated Area

How Does Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer Work?

This may range from mild sunburn to peeling or occasionally blistering. This side effect may not develop until treatment completion. It is usually at its most severe for one to two weeks and then settles over the following three to four weeks.

Its important to try and reduce friction between your skin and clothing to reduce the risk of skin breakdown or blistering. You will be advised how to take care of your skin. For instance:

  • Avoid hot water, lotions or other possible irritants on the skin in the treatment area. Using gentle soaps doesn’t seem to increase skin irritation.
  • Wear loose, light clothing over the area being treated.
  • Avoid heat from hair dryers, electric hot pads, hot water bottles and sun in the treatment area.
  • No adhesive tapes or sticking plasters should be applied to the skin in the treatment area

Some patients choose to use a transparent, breathable film dressing applied to the skin in the treatment area to try to reduce the skin reaction. Your radiation oncologist will be able to advise you on these products. Your radiation oncologist will also discuss with you the use of appropriate topical creams for the skin, depending on your skin reaction.

Radiation For Metastatic Breast Cancer

Sometimes breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body. When this happens, the breast cancer is called metastatic or stage IV.

If youve been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and are having symptoms, your doctor may recommend radiation therapy to:

  • ease pain
  • lower the risk of a cancer-weakened bone breaking
  • open a blocked airway to improve breathing
  • reduce pressure on a pinched spinal cord or nerve that might be causing pain, numbness, or weakness
  • treat cancer that has spread to the brain

The radiation dose and schedule to treat metastatic breast cancer depends on a number of factors, including:

  • the level of pain or amount of function lost
  • the size of the cancer
  • the location of the cancer
  • the amount of previous radiation youve had
  • the schedule for any other treatments

How Effective Is Radiation Therapy

If early-stage breast cancer hasnt spread, radiation therapy after a lumpectomy significantly reduces the risk of cancer coming back by approximately 50%. Studies show that a lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy is as effective as a mastectomy without radiation therapy.

People who undergo a lumpectomy have a 20% to 40% chance of the cancer coming back at 10 to 20 years. With the addition of postsurgical radiation therapy, that risk drops to 5% to 10%. However, there are some patients who derive less benefit from radiation including patients 65 years or older with small cancers.

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Radiotherapy For Breast Cancer

Radiotherapy uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. Find out about planning radiotherapy for breast cancer, how you have treatment, and about the possible side effects.

Internal radiotherapy to the breast is not standard treatment in the UK. You might have it as part of a clinical trial.

Questions about cancer? Call freephone 9 to 5 Monday to Friday or email us

Radiation Therapy Clinical Trials For Breast Cancer

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Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments to see how well they work and confirm that they are safe. Women who choose to participate in a trial at MSK receive the most advanced cancer treatments available, sometimes years before they are available anywhere else.

We offer a number of clinical trial options for women with breast cancer who are receiving radiation therapy. For example, MSK investigators are leading a national trial on the use of proton therapy to limit radiation-induced heart disease. Our team is also testing radiation in combination with new drugs, such as immunotherapy for recurrent breast cancer.

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What Happens During Radiation Therapy Treatment

What happens during your radiation therapy treatment depends on the kind of radiation therapy you receive.

External-beam radiation therapy

External-beam radiation therapy delivers radiation from a machine outside the body. It is the most common radiation therapy treatment for cancer.

Each session is quick, lasting about 15 minutes. Radiation does not hurt, sting, or burn when it enters the body. You will hear clicking or buzzing throughout the treatment and there may be a smell from the machine. Typically, people have treatment sessions 5 times per week, Monday through Friday. This schedule usually continues for 3 to 9 weeks, depending on your personal treatment plan.

This type of radiation therapy targets only the tumor. But it will affect some healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. While most people feel no pain when each treatment is being delivered, effects of treatment slowly build up over time and may include discomfort, skin changes, or other side effects, depending on where in the body treatment is being delivered. The 2-day break in treatment each week allows your body some time to repair this damage. Some of the effects may not go away until the treatment period is completed. Let the health care professionals if you are experiencing side effects. Read more about the side effects of radiation therapy.

Internal radiation therapy

  • The permanent implant loses it radioactivity

  • The temporary implant is removed

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Personal care

Brachytherapy Via Implantable Device

There are two common types of internal radiation treatment: interstitial brachytherapy and intracavitary brachytherapy.

During interstitial brachytherapy, a doctor will insert several small tubes into your breast where the cancer was removed. The tubes deliver radioactive pellets to that area a few times each day over several days. This procedure is not commonly used today.

Intracavitary brachytherapy is the most common type of internal breast cancer radiation. Your doctor will place a tube-like device into your breast to send radiation to the location of the cancer. The end of the device expands in the breast to keep it in place, while the other end sticks out of the breast. Outpatient treatment sessions happen twice a day for five days.

Side effects of intracavitary brachytherapy may include:

  • redness

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The Pressure Of Patient Expectations

A majority of surveyed physicians reported that patients want the most aggressive treatment, even if the benefit is small, and that it takes more effort to tell patients that they do not need radiation than it does to recommend it.

Its important to recognize that this is a controversial area, says Shumway. You cant say that offering radiation to older women is wrong. It really is a patient-driven decision, and it depends on the patients own values and preferences, in addition to her risk of recurrence and overall health.

As the point of first contact for breast cancer patients, surgeons have a tremendous influence on how patients choose treatment options.

Which is why Shumway thinks they could play a crucial role in counseling older women about options for less aggressive therapy.

The population is aging, and this is going to be an issue that affects more women, says Shumway. There is increasing attention given to considerations that are unique to older patients and in this case, their vulnerability for overtreatment.

Shumways future work will focus on developing interventions to help patients make fully informed decisions and understand the concept of competing causes of mortality.

Learn more about breast cancer and breast cancer treatment:

Chemotherapy For Early Breast Cancer After Surgery

When is Radiation Therapy Needed for Breast Cancer?

After you have a breast Surgery to remove a tumour, your doctor can prescribe Chemotherapy to kill any undetected cancer cells and to reduce your recurrent cancer risk. This known as adjuvant Chemotherapy.

The doctor may prescribe adjuvant Chemotherapy if you have a high risk of recurring or spreading the cancer to other parts of your body , even though after Surgery there is no evidence of cancer. When cancer cells are present in lymph nodes near the breast with the tumour, you could be at greater risk of metastasis.

When considering adjuvant chemotherapy, ask your doctor how much the Chemotherapy will lower the risk of returning to cancer. Together you should balance this decreased risk against the Chemotherapy side effects. Also, discuss other alternatives with your doctor, such as hormone-blocking therapy, which might be effective in your situation.

Chemotherapy before Surgery for early breast cancer

Chemotherapy is often given to reduce larger tumours before Surgery . This could:

Allow the surgeon the best chance to fully remove the tumour

Require the surgeon to remove only the tumour, not the whole breast.

Increasing the level of disease in lymph nodes, requiring less invasive treatment of the lymph nodes

Minimize risk of cancer returning

Allow assessment of the tumour response to therapy to help explain the prognosis and choose the best drug for chemotherapy

Neoadjuvant therapy is often used for:

Treatment to reduce Breast Cancer risk

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Who Is On My Radiation Therapy Team

A highly trained medical team will work together to provide you with the best possible care. This team may include the following health care professionals:

Radiation oncologist. This type of doctor specializes in giving radiation therapy to treat cancer. A radiation oncologist oversees radiation therapy treatments. They work closely with other team members to develop the treatment plan.

Radiation oncology nurse. This nurse specializes in caring for people receiving radiation therapy. A radiation oncology nurse plays many roles, including:

  • Answering questions about treatments

  • Monitoring your health during treatment

  • Helping you manage side effects of treatment

Medical radiation physicist. This professional helps design treatment plans. They are experts at using radiation equipment.

Dosimetrist. The dosimetrist helps your radiation oncologist calculate the right dose of radiation.

Radiation therapist or radiation therapy technologist. This professional operates the treatment machines and gives people their scheduled treatments.

Other health care professionals. Additional team members may help care for physical, emotional, and social needs during radiation therapy. These professionals include:

  • Social workers

Learn more about the oncology team.

There Are So Many Things To Love About You

Cancer has a way of feeling all-encompassing. Those affected may feel like their identity revolves around being a cancer patient. That is simply not true.

Your loved one is so much more than someone who has cancer. They could be a dog-lover, artist, parent Help them focus on all their amazing traits that have nothing to do with their illness.

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Who Gets Radiation Therapy

More than half of people with cancer get radiation therapy. Sometimes, radiation therapy is the only cancer treatment needed and sometimes it’s used with other types of treatment. The decision to use radiation therapy depends on the type and stage of cancer, and other health problems a patient might have.

When Is Radiation Therapy Used

Coping with side effects of radiation for breast cancer ...

Radiation therapy can be used to treat all stages of breast cancer.

Pregnant women should not have radiation therapy because it can harm the unborn baby. Read about Treatment for Breast Cancer During Pregnancy.

Radiation therapy after lumpectomy

Radiation therapy is recommended for most people who have lumpectomy to remove breast cancer. Lumpectomy is sometimes called breast-conserving surgery. The goal of radiation after lumpectomy is to destroy any individual cancer cells that may have been left in the breast after the tumor was removed. This reduces the risk of the cancer coming back and the risk of passing away from breast cancer.

Heres a good analogy for understanding the role of radiation therapy after surgery:If you drop a glass on the kitchen floor, you must first sweep up all of the big pieces of glass and throw them away you can think of breast surgery in this way, says Marisa Weiss, M.D., founder and chief medical officer of Breastcancer.org and director of breast radiation oncology at Lankenau Medical Center. Radiation therapy is like vacuuming the area after you sweep, getting into the corners and under the furniture, to get rid of any tiny shards of glass that might be left behind.

Radiation therapy after mastectomy

Radiation therapy may be recommended after mastectomy to destroy any cancer cells that may be left behind after the surgery. During mastectomy, it’s difficult for surgeons to take out every cell of breast tissue.

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Why Choose To Have Your Breast Radiation Therapy At Memorial Sloan Kettering

  • In order to deliver radiation in the best possible way, it takes a dedicated team of doctors, nurses, therapists, physicists, and treatment planners. Our breast cancer team is one of the largest and most experienced in the country.
  • Our radiation oncologists have access to and experience with every single form of radiation therapy available. There is not just one best type of radiation for all of the women we care for. But with our deep experience, we can select the best technique for each individual woman and tailor our approach as needed.
  • Our team of medical physicists ensures that the radiation dose each woman receives is accurately and safely targeted to cancer tissue and spares nearby normal tissue.
  • We consider the details of each unique woman. Our publications have demonstrated that our personalized care leads to superior outcomes.

What Emotional Responses Might I Expect

You may or may not experience anxiety or fear when you begin your treatment. Most people tell us that their concerns lessen as they adapt to the new environment and treatment.

Please speak to the staff if you feel that you need either emotional or practical support. There is a social worker on staff in the Radiation Oncology department. This may be a time when you think again about support groups or one-to-one consultation for the feelings that arise or to support your coping. For information about support services, please call the Breast Care Center at 353-7070.

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How Is Radiofrequency Radiation Exposure Measured In Studies Of Groups Of People

Epidemiologic studies use information from several sources, including questionnaires and data from cell phone service providers, to estimate radiofrequency radiation exposure in groups of people. Direct measurements are not yet possible outside of a laboratory setting. Estimates from studies reported to date take into account the following:

  • How regularly study participants use cell phones
  • The age and the year when study participants first used a cell phone and the age and the year of last use
  • The average number of cell phone calls per day, week, or month
  • The average length of a typical cell phone call
  • The total hours of lifetime use, calculated from the length of typical call times, the frequency of use, and the duration of use

Treatment Of Breast Cancer Stages I

Radiation Therapy For Breast Cancer

The stage of your breast cancer is an important factor in making decisions about your treatment.

Most women with breast cancer in stages I, II, or III are treated with surgery, often followed by radiation therapy. Many women also get some kind of systemic drug therapy . In general, the more the breast cancer has spread, the more treatment you will likely need. But your treatment options are affected by your personal preferences and other information about your breast cancer, such as:

  • If the cancer cells have hormone receptors. That is, if the cancer is estrogen receptor -positive or progesterone receptor -positive.
  • If the cancer cells have large amounts of the HER2 protein
  • How fast the cancer is growing
  • Your overall health
  • If you have gone through menopause or not

Talk with your doctor about how these factors can affect your treatment options.

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Are You A Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patient Or Caregiver Trying To Determine What Treatment Plan Is Right For You Or A Loved One

The Oncotype DX breast cancer test is a genomic test that may help guide treatment decisions for patients with non-invasive breast cancer, often referred to as ductal carcinoma in situ , and help early-stage invasive breast cancer patients with estrogen receptor-positive HER2 negative disease with node negative or up to three positive lymph nodes evaluate if they will benefit from chemotherapy.

If you are a caregiver looking for support or additional information about breast cancer, please consider visiting: www.cancercare.com.

If you would like to speak about the Oncotype DX test with a knowledgeable customer service specialist at Exact Sciences, please call: .

What Should I Expect After Radiation Therapy For Breast Cancer

You may notice fatigue as well as skin changes while undergoing radiation therapy. Your skin may become irritated, tender and swollen . People with fair skin may develop a red sunburn appearance. People with dark skin may notice darkening of the skin. This condition can also cause dry, itchy, flaky skin. Your skin may peel as you get close to finishing treatments . This skin irritation is temporary. Your provider can prescribe creams or medications to ease discomfort, if needed.

Skin discoloration can persist after treatment ends. Some people with fair skin have a slight pink or tan appearance for several years. You may also see tiny blood vessels in the radiated area. These vessels look like thin red lines or threads. These are not cause for concern.

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External Radiation Planning And Treatment: What To Expect

Daily external radiation treatments require careful planning to make sure the treatment area is mapped out as accurately as possible and that each day of your treatment goes smoothly.

Heres what you can generally expect from the planning session through your daily treatment routine.

Planning and simulating external radiation treatment

Your first radiation therapy session is called a simulation. It is a planning and practice session, and you receive no radiation.

During the simulation session, your radiation oncology team maps out the area of the breast that needs treatment using imaging such as a CT scan, MRI, or X-ray.

Because it is so important to position the angles of radiation accurately, the simulation session can sometimes last up to an hour.

During the simulation session, your doctor will:

  • explain the pros and cons of radiation, the planning and treatment process, and answer any questions or concerns you may have
  • review the consent form and have you sign it
  • introduce you to the treatment team
  • precisely identify the area where you will receive radiation

A second planning session usually is needed to confirm the treatment and your positioning. Special X-rays are taken of each treatment field to make sure they are all set up correctly, and additional markings may be made to better define the confirmed treatment fields.

External radiation therapy routine

Here’s what to expect during your visit to the radiation treatment center:

Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor

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