Radiation therapy is carried out using a large machine called
a linear accelerator. The machine delivers a minute quantity of
high-energy radiation which kills the cancerous cells. The
radiation causes only the
absolute minimal damage to skin tissue and stop cancer cells
from reproducing. Radiation therapy has shown to vastly improve
survival rates in women with breast cancer. Radiation therapy
can be used for several reasons when related to breast cancer.
Following a mastectomy or lumpectomy, the treatment can be used
in conjunction with chemotherapy to lower the risk of cancer
Radiation therapy can also be used if a surgeon feels that
the removal of a tumor isn't entirely in the best interests of a
patient's health. Treatment can also help if cancer has spread
into the bone structure or the brain, and can also be used if
the cancer actually reoccurs.
The treatment process when undergoing radiation therapy is
painless, but some patient can experience side effects. These
may include dryness and discomfort of the skin that can be
treated by your general practice if it occurs. However, it can
take up to twelve months for the effects to completely heal.
There is also the inevitable side effect of fatigue which
normally happens around a fortnight into treatment. Fatigue can
last up to a month after treatment is completed, but can be
countered by getting more rest and having early nights.
Blood will need to be checked regularly for reduced counts
and some women will experience a sore mouth or throat if
treatment is carried out around that particular area. There are
also significant lifestyle changes that may have to be made
while radiation therapy is taking place. Rest is imperative and
close attention needs to be paid to a healthy diet.
Regular blood tests will be necessary, and visits to the
doctor should be made if unusual symptoms such as coughing,
sweating, fever or pain occur. The affected area should receive
extra care and be treated gently. Tight clothes around the area
should be avoided to prevent rubbing. It's also important to
moisturize the affected area after radiation therapy is complete
and the treated area must also be kept out of direct sunlight.
The advances in radiation therapy means that long-term side
effects are quite rare but they do still occur. Rib fractures,
lung inflammation, damage to the heart, scarring and the
association of other tumors like sarcoma are all possible but
not as common as they once were.