Radiation Therapy is one of the most effective treatments with least side effects in the whole scheme of treatment for breast cancer. Side effects of radiation therapy have significantly come down by using advanced radiation treatment techniques like IMRT, IGRT and Breath holding based RT called ABC.
Which patients need radiation therapy for breast cancer?
Almost 80-90% patients with breast cancer must undergo radiation therapy. One must discuss with her oncologist regarding the need of radiation therapy.
Broadly any woman who has undergone breast conserving surgery (without removal of breast) must undergo radiation therapy irrespective of final biopsy/histopathology report or size of tumour.
All patients who have lymph node positive in breast cancer also always need radiation therapy irrespective of type of surgery.
Patients who have more than 5 cm tumour at diagnosis also need radiation therapy even after complete breast removing surgery or mastectomy.
What are the benefits of taking radiation therapy after breast cancer surgery?
Radiation therapy helps in preventing reoccurrence of breast cancer even after surgery. It is an essential part of treatment for majority BC patients.
How long does radiation treatment for breast cancer last?
Radiation therapy is given as a daily treatment session of 15-20 minutes. It is done 5 days in a week for about 3-4 weeks for majority breast cancer patients.
What are the side effects one experiences during RT for breast cancer?
Radiation therapy is a painless treatment.
By the time 75% radiation treatment gets over majority patients will experience change in colour of skin over breast, underarms, and neck. Sometimes there can be some mild skin peeling also. All these skin changes are self-limiting and recover back to normal by about 2 weeks after radiation treatment completion for majority patients.
Some patients might experience sore throat by the end of radiation treatment. This also improves by 1-2 weeks after treatment completion.
Less than 1 % pts can have pneumonia like problems with cough, breathlessness with RT.
Less than 5% patients can get heart disease 10-20 years after completion of radiation treatment.
Does radiation therapy to breast cause hair loss?
Radiation Therapy to breast does not cause any hair loss. Majority patients will continue to have hair regrowth while on RT.
Is there any special radiation therapy technique to protect heart during breast cancer radiation treatment?
Radiation therapy using a technique of intermittently holding breath during radiation treatment called as DIBH (Deep Inspiratory Breath Hold) or ABC ( Active Breath Control) helps in protecting heart better during radiation treatment.
Can patients work on gas stove and do cooking while on radiation treatment for breast cancer?
Yes, patients can safely do cooking on gas stove while on radiation therapy breast cancer.
Can patient’s stay safely with family members including children and pregnant women while on radiation treatment?
Yes, patients can safely stay with all family members including children and pregnant women while on radiation treatment.