Radiotherapy is a form of cancer treatment where cancer cells are damaged and killed with high energy radiation. Together with surgery and other treatments, radiotherapy reduce the amount of cancer in your body and increases the chance of you staying cancer free.
Radiotherapy is almost always recommended after breast-conserving surgery and often in patients with high risks disease after mastectomy. This include patients with large tumours and those where the cancer has spread to involve multiple lymph nodes. Almost always, radiotherapy is performed after surgery and chemotherapy, when needed.
Radiotherapy is performed over a period of about 3 weeks. The actual treatment duration may be adjusted further based on an assessment of your needs.
Following a consultation with your specialist, an appointment will be made for scans to be performed of the part of the body to be irradiated. This process is called Simulation.
Your doctor and team of specialists will then perform a personalized planning for radiotherapy according to your needs.
Radiotherapy is delivered every day, 5 days a week for the duration of the treatment. Daily treatment lasts for under an hour and is performed on an outpatient basis. Treatment is entirely painless and without any perceptible sensation.
During the weeks of radiotherapy, you would notice redness of the skin on the irradiated breast. This may be accompanied by dryness, itch and occasionally, pigmentation and mild discomfort from temporary swelling. These effects are short-term and would resolve rapidly in the weeks to months following the completion of radiotherapy.
In the longer term over months and years, a small proportion of patients may experience progressive hardening of the breast and the overlying skin which may lead to a shrinking or distortion of the breast or chest wall. Other late complications to the heart and lungs are much rarer and your doctor will advise you further as the risks vary between patients.
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