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Chapter: 6 - Treatment

Subchapter: 7 - Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy, which commonly follows surgery, uses x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. People with Stage 0 (DCIS ) or Stage 1 invasive cancer and higher, who have had a lumpectomy, can expect radiation therapy to be a part of their treatment regimen.

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.

Let’s discuss adjuvant radiation therapies in further detail. 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.

External Beam Radiation
External beam radiation (also known as traditional or whole breast radiation therapy) uses external beam radiation, like that of a regular x-ray, but the beam is highly focused and targets the cancerous area for two to three minutes. This form of treatment usually involves multiple appointments in an outpatient radiation center — as many as five days a week for five or six weeks. Certain situations may require a slightly higher dose of radiation over a shorter course of treatment, usually three to four weeks.

Internal Radiation
Internal radiation is another form of partial breast radiation. During the treatment, the doctor inserts a radioactive liquid with needles, wires, or a catheter in order to target the area nearest the cancer and kill any possible remaining cancer cells.

Radiation Side Effects
Radiation therapy can have side effects, and these vary from person to person. The most common side-effects are sunburn-type skin irritation of the targeted area, breast heaviness and discoloration, and fatigue. If you experience side effects, you should discuss them with your doctor, who may be able to suggest other more comfortable treatments.

You need to be aware that more intense treatment methods will tax your body. During radiation therapy, it is essential to take care of yourself by getting extra rest and making good nutrition a priority.

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An Early Detection Plan (EDP) significantly increases the chances of surviving breast cancer.

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