Surgery may not be the only possible treatment for breast cancer. It is usually the treatment of choice to assure all cancer cells are removed, but it isnt the only method. Radiation is another form of therapy and is often used before surgery to help shrink the tumor before it is removed.
It also may be used after the surgeries to be sure all breast cancer cells are destroyed around the tumor. If a woman chooses to have a breast-saving surgery, radiation will normally be part of the follow-up. This will depend on the size of the tumor and if the disease has spread.
Types of Radiation Therapy
Two different kinds of radiation therapy are used for breast cancer patients. External radiation will usually be five days a week for several weeks, and will involve traveling to a clinic or hospital for treatment. Internal radiation therapy is therapy that injects radioactive material transplanted into the breast. These implants will stay for several days. This radiation therapy means the woman will need to stay in the hospital during treatment, and the implants will be removed before they go home.
Radiation therapy side effects will depend on the dosage of radiation you receive and part of the body receives the treatment. Your skin may become tender, red, and itchy and your breast may feel heavy and tight. Radiation may cause your skin to be raw and fluid leakage can occur. Exposing your skin to air will help reduce this complication.
Radiation will affect your body. Depending on the radiation dosage, you may feel tired or fatigued especially during the latter stages of treatment. It is important that you remain active during this time, but give your body the rest it also needs for recovery.
Loose, soft, cotton clothing can be worn during this time to avoid extra irritation to the skin. You may choose to wear a different bra, or remain without one during radiation therapy. Lotions and deodorants may be used, but you should check with your doctor before using them on the affected area. Once treatment is over, these sore and irritated sites will heal. There may be a lasting color change on your skin where the radiation was given.
Side effects of radiation may be helped with your doctors help. They can advise you on how to take care of treated skin, what to expect before, during, and after radiation therapy, and what are any long-term effects.
You may also want to question your doctor on the permanent effects of radiation, the chances of your cancer returning, and how often you will need to have checkups. Many of these questions you will want to answer before radiation therapy begins, so you will know what to expect.
Problems associated with radiation therapy will disappear after therapy is over. Eventually your skin will heal and no longer be red and itchy. Your skin will need special care while undergoing radiation therapy. Learn all you can about radiation and its effects on the body before you start the treatment.