Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, is used to treat breast cancer by killing cancer cells in an area that has been specifically targeted.
After a lumpectomy breast radiation reduced the risk of local recurrence. Radiation effectively ‘cleans up’ any remaining cancer cells left in/around the lumpectomy cavity. Adjacent normal cells are better able to repair the damage caused by radiation than are cancer cells. Essentially, radiation is therapeutic doses of xray beams designed to kill cancer cells.
Multiple studies have shown that women who received radiation had a significant reduction of local or distant recurrence when compared to those who did not undergo radiation. They also found a significant reduction in the risk of death by breast cancer in those treated with radiotherapy. Thus, the patients who had radiotherapy when radiotherapy was indicated did better than those who did not receive radiotherapy. This is why radiation is included as part of the therapy for breast cancer. It is intended to kill microscopic disease that cannot be seen or felt, that may be left behind after surgery.
Radiation is primarily used in the following settings:
Radiotherapy can be administered in two ways:
There are lifetime limits to the amount of radiation that can be given to a specific area of the body and this limit will determine the dosage of the radiation therapy. The physician who delivers radiation therapy (the radiation oncologist) will work with the breast surgeon and patient to determine the most suitable treatment
Whole-breast radiation therapy treats all remaining breast tissue after a partial mastectomy (or lumpectomy). This therapy is delivered in daily doses over 4 to 6 weeks, typically Monday through Friday. In each session the patient lies in a machine that delivers the radiation, which is targeted on the breast tissue.
**It is very important that you take care of your skin during radiation. Use moisturizer liberally – about 3-4x day. Jean’s Cream is the most effective, but you can also use OTC agents such as Aquaphor. **It is very important that you wear a soft, cotton, supportive bra without underwire. MAKEMERRY is a wonderful option – the bra is extremely comfortable and designed by a female radiation oncologist/company owner specifically for women going through breast cancer treatment.