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Side Effects From Breast Cancer Radiation

What Are The Different Kinds Of Radiation Therapy

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer?

Most radiation therapy is administered by a radiation oncologist at a radiation center and usually begins three to four weeks after surgery. The radiation is used to destroy undetectable cancer cells and reduce the risk of cancer recurring in the affected breast.

There are two main kinds of radiation therapy that may be considered, and some people have both.

  • External Beam Breast Cancer Radiation
  • Internal Breast Cancer Radiation

Keep in mind that the course of treatment you decide is something you should discuss with your radiation oncologist in order to ensure that it is as effective as possible.

If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Head Or Neck

People who get radiation to the head and neck might have side effects such as:

  • Soreness in the mouth or throat

How to care for your mouth during treatment

If you get radiation therapy to the head or neck, you need to take good care of your teeth, gums, mouth, and throat. Here are some tips that may help you manage mouth problems:

  • Avoid spicy and rough foods, such as raw vegetables, dry crackers, and nuts.
  • Dont eat or drink very hot or very cold foods or beverages.
  • Dont smoke, chew tobacco, or drink alcohol these can make mouth sores worse.
  • Stay away from sugary snacks.
  • Ask your cancer care team to recommend a good mouthwash. The alcohol in some mouthwashes can dry and irritate mouth tissues.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt and soda water every 1 to 2 hours as needed.
  • Sip cool drinks often throughout the day.
  • Eat sugar-free candy or chew gum to help keep your mouth moist.
  • Moisten food with gravies and sauces to make it easier to eat.
  • Ask your cancer care team about medicines to help treat mouth sores and control pain while eating.

If these measures are not enough, ask your cancer care team for advice. Mouth dryness may be a problem even after treatment is over. If so, talk to your team about what you can do.

How to care for your teeth during treatment

Radiation treatment to your head and neck can increase your chances of getting cavities. This is especially true if you have dry mouth as a result of treatment.

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.

Also Check: How Can You Tell You Have Breast Cancer

How Does Radiation Kill Cancer Cells

Radiation therapy uses high energy X-rays, protons, or other particles to kill cancer cells. These particles damage the DNA in cancer cells, ridding them of their ability to reproduce, which slows or stops their growth. Although radiation therapy can affect healthy cells, they usually recover. Doctors use the lowest effective dosage

When Does Someone With Breast Cancer Get Radiation Therapy

Side effects of radiation for breast cancer: What to know

The timing for radiation therapy depends on several factors. The treatment may take place:

  • After a lumpectomy: A lumpectomy removes the cancerous tumor, leaving most of the breast. Radiation therapy lowers your risk of cancer coming back in the remaining breast tissue or nearby lymph nodes as well as reduces your chance of passing away of breast cancer.
  • After a mastectomy: Most people dont get radiation therapy after a mastectomy . Your provider may recommend radiation if the tumor was larger than 5 cm if theres cancer in surrounding lymph nodes, skin tissue or muscle or if all the cancer can’t be removed .
  • Before surgery: Rarely, healthcare providers use radiation to shrink a tumor before surgery.
  • Instead of surgery: Sometimes, providers use radiation therapy to shrink a tumor that they cant surgically remove . A tumor may be unresectable due to its size or location. Or you may not be a candidate for surgery because of concerns about your health.
  • To treat cancer spread: Stage 4 breast cancer is cancer that spreads to other parts of the body. Your provider may use radiation therapy to treat cancer that spreads to other parts of the body.

If you had surgery, radiation therapy typically starts about one month after the incision heals if chemotherapy is not received. Some individuals receive chemotherapy after surgery, followed by radiation therapy. You may get the two treatments at the same time.

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Nerve Damage Around The Treatment Area

Scaring from radiotherapy may cause nerve damage in the arm on the treated side. This can develop many years after your treatment. Symptoms include tingling, numbness, pain, and weakness. In some people, it may cause some loss of movement in the arm and shoulder.

Speak to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.

What Side Effects Occur With Radiation Therapy To The Breast And Chest

Radiation treatment to the chest may cause several changes. You will notice some of these changes yourself, and your treatment team will keep an eye on these and others. For example, you may find swallowing to be difficult or painful. You may develop a cough. Or you may develop a fever, notice a change in the color or amount of mucus when you cough, or feel short of breath. It is important to let your treatment team know right away if you have any of these symptoms. Your doctor also may check your blood counts regularly, especially if the radiation treatment area on your body is large. Just keep in mind that your doctor and nurse will be alert for these changes and will help you deal with them.

Your radiation therapy plan may include implants of radioactive material a week or two after external treatment is completed. You may have some breast tenderness or a feeling of tightness while the implants are in your breast. After they are removed, you are likely to notice some of the same effects that occur with external treatment. If so, follow the advice given above and let your doctor know about any problems that persist.

After 10 to 12 months, no further changes are likely to be caused by the radiation therapy. If you see new changes in breast size, shape, appearance, or texture after this time, report them to your doctor at once.

Recommended Reading: Can Chest Binders Cause Breast Cancer

Managing The Challenges Of Hormone Therapies

Hormone therapy for early breast cancer affects people differently. Some people experience more side effects than others and its not something you can predict before treatment. Many women find that the side effects are often worse at the start of treatment, and can settle down after weeks or months, but some symptoms persist for the duration of treatment.

Hormones occur naturally in the body and control the growth and activity of cells. We know that the female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, can help some types of breast cancer to grow. Hormone therapy works by reducing the amount of oestrogen in the body or blocking its effects. You can have side effects from hormone therapies because they lower your levels of oestrogen or stop your body from being able to use it.

The side effects you experience will depend on the type of hormone treatment you are on.

Other Side Effects Include:

Radiation Side Effects Common In Breast Cancer Treatment
  • Changes in the skin colour. Your skin may become darker during treatment.
  • Changes in skin thickness. Your skin may become tougher or thicker after treatment.
  • Fatigue. It is normal to feel tired during the weeks in which you are having radiotherapy.
  • Tenderness in the breast and/or chest.
  • Swelling of the breast, chest, arm or axilla. If this persists after treatment is completed, it may be due to damage to the lymph system causing lymphoedema and requires assessment and treatment.
  • Loss of appetite.

Also Check: How To Get Rid Of Breast Cancer Naturally

Radiation Therapy For Breast Cancer May Have Long

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 22, 2021 Younger women who undergo radiation for cancer in the left breast have a heightened risk of heart disease years later, a new study finds.

Among women who received radiation therapy for left-sided breast cancer, 10.5% developed coronary artery disease over the next 27 years, researchers found. That was close to double the rate among women who had radiation for tumors in the right breast.

Experts said the findings, published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: CardioOncology, are not unexpected.

Because of the hearts anatomical position, the organ and its arteries are exposed to more radiation when a woman receives treatment for cancer in the left breast.

And previous studies have found that those women do have a higher long-term rate of coronary artery disease compared to women who receive treatment to the right breast.

But the new study focused on younger women, diagnosed before age 55, said researcher Gordon Watt, a postdoctoral fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Those women are likely to live for many years after their breast cancer treatment, so its important to understand what kinds of long-term follow-up they will need for their overall health, according to Watt.

He stressed that the point is not to deter women from receiving radiation therapy.

The study included 972 women who received radiation for stage 1 or stage 2 breast cancer between 1985 and 2008.

Problems With Thinking And Remembering Things

The drugs used to treat cancer can cause some people to have trouble concentrating or remembering things. This is often called chemo brain, and it can make it hard for cancer patients to do their jobs or everyday tasks.

Tips for coping with this problem include getting plenty of sleep, making notes of your daily plans and setting reminders on your smart phone, and focusing on one task instead of trying to do several things at the same time.

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Pain And Skin Changes

During and just after treatment, your treated breast may be sore. Talk with your health care provider about using mild pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen to ease breast tenderness.

The treated breast may also be rough to the touch, red , swollen and itchy. Sometimes the skin may peel, as if sunburned. Your health care provider may suggest special creams to ease this discomfort.

Sometimes the skin peels further and the area becomes tender and sensitive. Its most common in the skin folds and the underside of the breast. If this occurs, let your radiation team know. They can give you creams and pads to make the area more comfortable until it heals.

Fatigue is common during radiation therapy and may last for several weeks after treatment ends.

Fatigue is mainly a short-term problem, but for some, it can persist .

You may feel like you dont have any energy and may feel tired all of the time. Resting may not help.

Regular exercise, even just walking for 20 minutes every day, may help reduce fatigue . Getting a good nights sleep is also important.

Talk with your health care provider if you are fatigued or have insomnia .

Learn more about fatigue and insomnia.

Problems Moving Your Arm And Shoulder

Pin on Breast Cancer

Radiotherapy might make it harder to move your arm and shoulder. This can affect your activities and work. It usually improves when the treatment finishes. Your nurse or physiotherapist can give you exercises to help.

Its important to continue the arm exercise you were shown after your surgery. This will make it easier for you to lift your arm to the correct position during radiotherapy. It can also help stop your arm and shoulder from becoming stiff.

  • There is help available ask the hospital for support
  • Talk to your friends and family about how you are feeling
  • Ask about local support groups
  • Your GP or hospital can provide counselling
  • You can get help and support online through forums

If you’re experiencing a side effect that hasn’t been covered in this video, you can find more information on the Cancer Research UK website.

On screen text: For more information go to: cruk.org/radiotherapy/side-effects

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Possible Side Effects Of External Beam Radiation

The main short-term side effects of external beam radiation therapy to the breast are:

  • Swelling in the breast
  • Skin changes in the treated area similar to a sunburn

Your health care team may advise you to avoid exposing the treated skin to the sun because it could make the skin changes worse. Most skin changes get better within a few months. Changes to the breast tissue usually go away in 6 to 12 months, but it can take longer.

External beam radiation therapy can also cause side effects later on:

Oral Devices Need Special Care During High

The following can help in the care and use of dentures, braces, and other oral devices during high-dose chemotherapy or stem cell transplant:

  • Have brackets, wires, and retainers removed before high-dose chemotherapy begins.
  • Wear dentures only when eating during the first 3 to 4 weeks after the transplant.
  • Brush dentures twice a day and rinsing them well.
  • Soak dentures in an antibacterial solution when they are not being worn.
  • Clean denture soaking cups and changing denture soaking solution every day.
  • Remove dentures or other oral devices when cleaning your mouth.
  • Continue your regular oral care 3 or 4 times a day with dentures or other devices out of the mouth.
  • If you have mouth sores, avoid using removable oral devices until the sores have healed.

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D Techniques And Imrt

One of the first major advancements in radiotherapy that resulted in reduced doses to normal tissues is the use of 3D imaging for the design of the radiation plan. Radiotherapy based on computed tomography-simulation with treatment planning software and image verification of patient setup allows for more accurate estimation of target and organ dosimetry. 3D planning allows for adjustment of the radiation beam angle and the addition of in field blocks to reduce underlying lung and heart dose. In addition to a static cardiac block, field-in-field techniques have shown the greatest reduction in cardiac dose, but both forward-planning and IMRT have both been employed . These techniques result in lower volumes of heart receiving high and low doses as well as a reduced complication rates. These techniques also minimize dose inhomogeneity that results in areas that receive higher than the prescribed dose within the breast tissue and at the surface of the breast leading to decreased acute skin toxicity.

Can Radiation Cause Fatigue

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy After Breast Cancer

Radiation side effects are different for each person. You may be able to exercise or perform your normal activities. Or you may not. Side effects also tend to get worse as more treatments are given. I lost my hair, experienced a great deal of fatigue and nausea, and skin dryness on treated areas. When these changes happen, acknowledge your side effects and react. No one expects you to go through treatment and act like it doesnt affect you. Once treatment is over, your body quickly adjusts to its normal self.

Read Also: What To Do When You Get Breast Cancer

Radiation For Breast Cancer

Radiation therapy is treatment with high-energy rays that destroy cancer cells. Some women with breast cancer will need radiation, in addition to other treatments.

Depending on the breast cancer’s stage and other factors, radiation therapy can be used in several situations:

  • After breast-conserving surgery, to help lower the chance that the cancer will come back in the same breast or nearby lymph nodes.
  • After amastectomy, especially if the cancer was larger than 5 cm , if cancer is found in many lymph nodes, or if certain surgical margins, such as the skin or muscle, have cancer cells.
  • If cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, spinal cord, or brain.

Questions To Ask The Health Care Team

Consider asking the health care team these questions if radiation therapy is a part of your recommended treatment plan:

  • What physical side effects are likely based on my specific radiation therapy treatment plan? When will they likely begin?

  • How can these side effects be prevented or managed?

  • How can I take care of the affected skin during my treatment period?

  • Who should I tell when a side effect appears or gets worse?

  • Are there specific side effects I should tell the doctor about right away?

  • Who can I talk with if I’m feeling anxious or upset about having this treatment?

  • If I’m having side effects that affect my nutrition, can you recommend an oncology dietitian?

  • What are other ways I can take care of myself during the treatment period?

  • Are there any restrictions on exercising or other physical activity during this treatment?

  • Could this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long?

  • Could this treatment affect my ability to become pregnant or have a child? If so, should I talk with a fertility specialist before cancer treatment begins?

  • What are the potential long-term effects of this type of radiation therapy?

  • If I’m worried about managing the financial costs of cancer care, who can help me?

  • Will special precautions be needed to protect my family and others from radiation exposure during my treatment period?

  • After radiation therapy is completed, what will my follow-up care plan be?

  • Why is follow-up care important for managing side effects of treatment?

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