FROM OUR EXPERTS
When it comes to breast cancer treatment, radiation can seem like a walk in the park compared to major surgery and months of chemotherapy. For me, it was a breeze. I had already survived a lumpectomy and chemotherapy before my turn at radiation. I’d endured hair loss, nausea, low blood counts, fever, two hospitalizations, and a blood transfusion. Radiation couldn’t – and didn’t – even compare. But it’s still quite a process, and what follows will shed some light on how you might breeze through radiation. It’s all quite do-able – if you know what to expect. Preparation for Radiation If your doctor has prescribed radiation as part of your treatment plan, preparation is key. Radiation is a detailed, precise process that aims to kill cancer cells in the breast while sparing healthy cells in the same area. It’s administered by a machine that accelerates charged particles and shoots them at a target that generates photons. Photons travel...
Radiation therapy is a highly targeted, highly effective way to destroy cancer cells that may linger after surgery. This reduces the risk of recurrence.
Radiation is usually given after mastectomy in men with:
large cancers (5 centimeters or bigger)
a positive margin of resection (when the cancer comes very close to or is at the edge of the breast tissue removed)
a significant area of lymphatic or blood vessel involvement
significant lymph node involvement (four or more positive nodes)
After mastectomy, radiation therapy is usually given 5 days a week for about 5-7 weeks.
Radiation can also be used for men with advanced (metastatic) disease to relieve symptoms or help avoid complications from specific areas of spread. For example, radiation can help relieve painful bone metastases, decrease the risk of breaking a bone that's been weakened by cancer, decrease bleeding from skin involvement, and reduce neurological symptoms if the cancer puts pressure on nerves or the spinal cord.
It is natural for anyone beginning a new medical treatment to be a little fearful. For people beginning radiation therapy, this fear seems to be heightened by some common misunderstandings about the treatment.
Radiation therapy is painful. Not really. Most patients have no sensation of radiation when the machine is delivering the daily treatment. A few patients report a slight warming or tingling sensation in the area while the radiation machine is on. Over time, the skin in the area being treated will gradually become dry, sore, itchy, or burning. These feelings can be uncomfortable, but usually not enough for a person to stop or interrupt her treatment. Read more on coping with skin reactions .
Radiation therapy will cause me to be radioactive. Only in certain cases. If you are treated with external radiation, you will not be radioactive at any time. The radiation you receive delivers its dose to your tissues within an instant — there is no lingering radiation once the treatment mac...
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