Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer
Breast cancer Radiation therapy
(radiotherapy) is the fact that cancerous cells in the breast are precisely targeted and killed using
therapeutic high intensity energy beams. In fact, radiotherapy is often used in the treatment of breast
malignant tumor either before or after surgical therapy.
Breast cancer is
the most common type of cancer in women in terms of incidence and death rates. Yet, the number of women
diagnosed with the disease is increasing day by day. Normally, before or after the radiation, surgery is often
performed to get rid of malignant tissue that was not removed during the surgical intervention. During the
surgery, the surgeon gets rid of the cancerous lump from the breast (lumpectomy) or the whole breast
(mastectomy). The radiotherapy is, most of the times, followed by
chemotherapy in order to kill cancer cells in the entire body. After the chemotherapy, radiation therapy is
performed to help kill the remaining cancerous cells in the tumor site.
In many types of
cancer, radiation therapy can be used externally or internally.
External Radiation: during this type of radiotherapy, high energy
radioactive beams from a machine called linear accelerator are focused with precision on diseased breast tissue
and the lymph nodes. Before proceeding to the therapy, the radiation oncologist needs to first observe the
mammography charts and other imaging documents to accurately mark the area to be treated. Accuracy in the
marking is very important to allow the therapeutic rays to be delivered directly in the diseased tissue in order
to protect healthy tissue. In addition, the right dose of the high energy beams must be delivered. Precaution is
taken so that other surrounding parts of the body are not affected with the beams.
radiation usually takes place in a hospital or medical center, 5 days a week for 5-7 weeks, depending upon the
situation. This is a very quick therapy session; each session of radiotherapy lasts about 1-2 minutes.
Internal Radiation: Internal radiation or brachytherapy in the treatment of
breast cancer is called partial-breast radiation. In this form of therapy, the radiation source is placed inside
the patient, very closed to the tumor. Small pieces of radioactive material called 'seeds' are placed in the
area after removal of the cancerous tissue. The therapeutic seeds work by emitting radiation into the
surrounding tissue to damage the DNA of the cancer cells, thus preventing them from reproducing. Breast cancer
radiation therapy can be effective, although it causes side effects.
Radiation Therapy Side Effects
radiotherapy is less toxic than chemotherapy, it also causes side effects. The site where the radiation is
targeted tends to burn, looks like a sunburn, with redness, itching, burning, possible peeling and soreness.
This effect usually goes away on its own gradually once the treatment is over.
patients tend to experience increased fatigue and weakness, which are often associated or followed by mild chest
pain, which can be due to the swelling and irritation of nearby nerves. In addition, Loss of appetite,
Discomfort and inflammation of arm pit associated with symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and vomiting are also
observed during or after breast cancer radiation.