Your Role On Your Radiation Therapy Team
Your radiation therapy care team will work together to care for you. Youre a part of that team, and your role includes:
- Getting to your appointments on time.
- Asking questions and talking about your concerns.
- Telling someone on your care team when you have symptoms related to your treatment.
- Telling someone on your care team if youre in pain.
- Caring for yourself at home by:
- Quitting smoking if you smoke. If you want to quit, call our Tobacco Treatment Program at .
- Caring for your skin based on your care teams instructions
- Drinking liquids based on your care teams instructions.
- Eating the foods your care team suggests.
- Staying around the same weight.
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People who received radiation or chemotherapy treatment for breastcancer may experience sideeffects as long as a decade afterward, according to the results of a study in the oncology journal The Breast. These sideeffects may include dizziness, forgetfulness, anxiety, depression and cardiac dysfunction, reports DocWire News.. To examine the long-term impact of radiation and chemotherapy on.
How long do side effects from breast cancer radiation last? Most side effects go away within a few months of ending treatment. Some side effects may continue after treatment ends because it takes time for the healthy cells to recover from radiation. Side effects might limit your ability to do some things.
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If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Chest
Radiation treatment to the chest may cause side effects such as:
Radiation can also cause other problems in the heart or lungs.
Getting radiation to the middle portion of the chest can raise your risk of heart disease. This risk increases with higher radiation doses and larger treatment areas in this part of your body. Radiation can also cause hardening of the arteries , heart valve damage, or irregular heartbeats.
Radiation pneumonitis is inflammation of the lungs that can be caused by radiation treatment to the chest . It may occur about 3 to 6 months after getting radiation therapy. Its more likely if you have other lung diseases, like emphysema . Common symptoms of radiation pneumonitis include:
- Shortness of breath that usually gets worse with exercise
- Chest pain, which is often worse when taking in a deep breath
Sometimes there are no symptoms, and radiation pneumonitis is found on a chest x-ray.
Symptoms often go away on their own, but if treatment is needed, it is based on trying to decrease the inflammation. Steroids, like prednisone, are usually used. With treatment, most people recover without any lasting effects. But if it persists, it can lead to pulmonary fibrosis . When this happens, the lungs can no longer fully inflate and take in air.
Be sure you understand what to look for, and tell your cancer care team if you notice any of these side effects.
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External Beam Radiation Therapy
EBRT is the most common type of radiation therapy for women with breast cancer. A machine outside the body focuses the radiation on the area affected by the cancer.
Which areas need radiation depends on whether you had a mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery and if the cancer has reached nearby lymph nodes.
- If you had a mastectomy and no lymph nodes had cancer cells, radiation will be focused on the chest wall, the mastectomy scar, and the places where any drains exited the body after surgery.
- If you had BCS, you will most likely have radiation to the entire breast . An extra boost of radiation to the area in the breast where the cancer was removed is often given if there is a high risk of the cancer coming back. The boost is often given after the treatments to the whole breast have ended. It uses the same machine, with lower amounts of radiation aimed at the tumor bed. Most women dont notice different side effects from boost radiation than from whole breast radiation.
- If cancer was found in the lymph nodes under the arm , this area may be given radiation, as well. Sometimes, the area treated might also include the nodes above the collarbone and the nodes beneath the breast bone in the center of the chest .
How Effective Is Radiation Therapy
If early-stage breast cancer hasnt spread, radiation therapy after a lumpectomy significantly reduces the risk of cancer coming back by approximately 50%. Studies show that a lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy is as effective as a mastectomy without radiation therapy.
People who undergo a lumpectomy have a 20% to 40% chance of the cancer coming back at 10 to 20 years. With the addition of postsurgical radiation therapy, that risk drops to 5% to 10%. However, there are some patients who derive less benefit from radiation including patients 65 years or older with small cancers.
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Radiation therapy sideeffects: 5 tips to cope. BY Pamela J. Schlembach, M.D. Like many types of cancer treatment, radiation therapy can cause sideeffects and have a profound impact on patients. Many of my patients suffer from lack of sleep, malnutrition, fatigue and skin irritation, and some aren’t quite sure how to cope.
SideEffects of Local Radiation Therapy for BreastCancer. The sideeffects of irradiation of the breast, chest wall, and regional lymph nodes are listed in Table 5. As with chemotherapy, much of.
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While these short-term side effects prove how high-risk abortion can be, it can also lead to more devastating long-term dangers of abortion such as: Cancer. Abortion or pregnancies not carried to completion increase the risk of developing breast cancer due. External beam radiation is the most common kind of radiation treatment for breast cancer. Itâs a painless treatment, like getting an X-ray. A doctor will place a machine on the outside of your body and aim the radiation beams at the area of the cancer. … Short-term side effects of external radiation include: fatigue red, itchy, dry or.
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Skin And Tissue Imperfections
Radiation can also cause the skin over an implant or tissue flap to become tighter, tougher, and more rigid. In some cases, a treatment called fat grafting can help soften and improve the skin and/or thicken the layer of tissue between an implant and the skin.
During a fat grafting procedure, fat tissue is removed from another part of your body usually your thighs, belly, or buttocks by liposuction. The tissue is then processed into liquid and injected into the breast area. The fat that survives establishes a blood supply within a few days. In some cases, very little of the fat survives. In the best case scenario, about half of the fat that is injected will stay there permanently, while the rest will be reabsorbed by the body. Several sessions of fat grafting may be needed to get the best results.
If youre considering fat grafting, talk with your plastic surgeon about whether your results are likely to match your expectations. Even though fat grafting is used to improve skin and tissue imperfections after radiation therapy, fat grafting doesnt take as well in radiated tissue as it does in non-radiated tissue. Its also important to know that once you take fat from a donor site on the body such as the belly to use for fat grafting, then you wont be able to use tissue/fat from that site again for breast reconstruction. If you decide you want a flap reconstruction in the future, you may have already used up a key tissue source.
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A. Depending on exactly where you receive radiation, a number of sideeffects can occur either on a temporary, long-term, or delayed basis. They include changes in sensation , secretions , taste, and range of motion . These sideeffects can then affect key.
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What Should I Expect Before Radiation Therapy For Breast Cancer
Most people who have breast cancer treatment receive external beam radiation therapy. The goal is to destroy any remaining cancerous cells while protecting healthy tissue.
Before your first treatment, you will have a planning session . This simulation helps your provider map out the treatment area while sparing normal tissues . This session may take one hour or longer.
During the simulation, your provider:
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What Is Radiation Therapy And How Does It Work
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects cells only in the part of the body that is treated with the radiation. Breast cancer radiation therapy may be used to destroy any remaining mutated cells that remain in the breast or armpit area after surgery.
Note: There are special situations in which radiation is used for women with metastatic breast cancer experiencing painful bone metastasis. This section however focused on the use of radiation for adjuvant therapy .
Who should expect to be prescribed radiation therapy and what is involved?Some people with Stage 0 and most people with Stage 1 invasive cancer and higher, who have had a lumpectomy, can expect radiation therapy to be a part of their treatment regimen.
External Beam Breast Cancer Radiation
External beam radiation 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
External breast cancer radiation used to be the most common type used for breast cancer. However in more recent years internal radiation clinical trials have enabled more women to opt for this method if their cancer was caught early enough. Internal radiation typically offers fewer noticeable side effects.
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Are There Options To Prevent Or Treat Side Effects Caused By Radiation Therapy
Yes. Your health care team can help you prevent or relieve many side effects. Preventing and treating side effects is an important part of your overall cancer treatment. This is called palliative care or supportive care.
Before treatment begins, ask what side effects are likely from the specific type of treatment you are receiving and when they may happen. During and after treatment, let your health care team know how you are feeling on a regular basis. This includes if you are experiencing a new side effect, or a problem persists or has gotten worse.
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Bowel Movement: see Constipation Caused by Your Medications or Diarrhea Caused by Medications. Bowel Radiation Therapy: see Upper Abdomen: Care of Radiation Therapy SideEffects. Brain Fog: see Memory, Thinking & Attention. Brain: Care of Radiation Therapy SideEffects. Breast or Chest Wall: Care of Radiation Therapy SideEffects. Breathlessness. .
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During Your Radiation Therapy
On the day of your first radiation treatment, youll start putting triamcinolone 0.1% ointment on your skin in the treatment area. This is a prescription ointment that will help protect your skin. Youll use it every day, once in the morning and once in the evening. This includes the days you dont have treatment. Your radiation nurse will give you more information about it before your first treatment.
Your radiation oncologist may also recommend using Mepitel® Film to protect your skin in the treatment area. If they do, put it on your skin in the treatment area before your first treatment. Keep it on until the edges start to peel up.
Youll stay in one position for about 10 to 20 minutes during each of your radiation treatments, depending on your treatment plan. If you think youll be uncomfortable lying still, you can take acetaminophen or your usual pain medication 1 hour before your appointments.
What Is Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is a commonly used therapy for many types of cancer. For breast cancer, radiation is typically used after surgery to help reduce the risk of cancer returning. It can also help treat a symptom, such as pain, in someone with cancer that has spread outside the breast.
During treatment, a dose of ionizing radiation is targeted at the tumor. It is often given each day, Monday through Friday, for one to six weeks. Each dose of radiation is referred to as a fraction.
Radiation damages the DNA inside the cells it’s hitting, which causes the cell’s death. Unfortunately, radiation can also damage healthy cells, leading to side effects. Some body tissues can handle radiation better than others, so side effects may occur quickly or appear later, even after radiation is done.
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If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Breast
If you have radiation to the breast, it can affect your heart or lungs as well causing other side effects.
Short-term side effects
Radiation to the breast can cause:
- Skin irritation, dryness, and color changes
- Breast soreness
- Breast swelling from fluid build-up
To avoid irritating the skin around the breasts, try to go without wearing a bra. If this isnt possible, wear a soft cotton bra without underwires.
If your shoulders feel stiff, ask your cancer care team about exercises to keep your shoulder moving freely.
Breast soreness, color changes, and fluid build-up will most likely go away a month or 2 after you finish radiation therapy. If fluid build-up continues to be a problem, ask your cancer care team what steps you can take. See Lymphedema for more information.
Long-term changes to the breast
Radiation therapy may cause long-term changes in the breast. Your skin may be slightly darker, and pores may be larger and more noticeable. The skin may be more or less sensitive and feel thicker and firmer than it was before treatment. Sometimes the size of your breast changes it may become larger because of fluid build-up or smaller because of scar tissue. These side effects may last long after treatment.
After about a year, you shouldnt have any new changes. If you do see changes in breast size, shape, appearance, or texture after this time, tell your cancer care team about them right away.
Less common side effects in nearby areas
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Easing Worries About Radiation Therapy
Its normal to worry about possible side effects of radiation therapy.
Talk with your health care provider about your concerns.
Your health care provider may be able to suggest a hospital social worker, patient navigator, psychologist or support group to help ease anxiety related to radiation therapy .
Learn more about support groups.
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Preventing Heart And Lung Damage
After my breasts were a decent size, one of the radiation therapists made my . I laid on my back on the big radiation machine. I had to reach both hands above my head and hold on to handlebar type things.
Since my cancer was in my left breast, my doctors were concerned about my heart being radiated. They had me do deep breathing exercises where I held my breath for different lengths of time.
The longest I ever had to hold it was during this CT scan appointment. The actual radiation sessions went much faster.
The therapist used a sharpie marker to make crosses on my chest and abdomen. I was not supposed to wash these off for the entire five weeks.
Some of them did fade, but the therapists would freshen them up at my appointments. During these five weeks, I made sure to wear shirts that had high collars. Otherwise, you could see a big green x near my collarbone.
When Should I Call The Doctor
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
- Severe skin or breast inflammation.
- Signs of infection, such as fever, chills or weeping skin wounds.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Radiation therapy can lower the risk of cancer recurrence and cancer spread. The treatment affects everyone differently. Most side effects go away in a few months after treatments end. Some problems last longer. You should tell your healthcare provider about any problems you have while getting treatment. Your provider may change the therapy slightly to minimize issues while still effectively treating the cancer.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/19/2021.
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Radiations Link To Secondary Diseases And Cancers
Radiation therapy may increase a persons risk of developing a different type of cancer years or may even decades after the fact. Though rare, some women may just be genetically predisposed to radiation-induced cancers. That said, Dr. Mutter says the risk of radiation-induced cancers for most breast cancer patients over their lifetime is only a fraction of a percent.
Unfortunately, due to its proximity to the heart, secondary cancers arent the only thing breast cancer survivors have to worry about radiation also makes them more likely to develop cardiovascular-related diseases that can lead to cardiac arrest and heart failure. Thanks to advancements in technology and more awareness of the potentially toxic side effects of radiation, Dr. Kim tells us that these deaths can largely be avoided nowadays.