SolveYourProblem Article Series: Breast Cancer
Help Me Understand Breast Cancer



How To Treat Breast Cancer With Radiation

If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with breast cancer it will no doubt be a very stressful time. From the start, your physician or specialist will take the time to explain the different treatment options that are available to you and to determine what will be the best treatment plan for your circumstances.

The type of cancer and what stage it is at will dictate the best course of action and while it will vary for each person, quite often it follows a course of surgery followed by chemotherapy or radiation or a combination of both.

Radiation is the use of high energy x-rays to target and kill cancer cells. It is usually given after surgery has removed the main part of the cancer and it is meant to catch any cells in the breast area that weren't removed and to stop the cancer from spreading or recurring. For cancers that may be larger in nature the doctor may feel that using radiation before the surgery will help reduce the size of a tumor and make the surgery easier.

Radiation works well to destroy cancer cells because the nature of these cell is to reproduce and grow rapidly out of control. This actually makes them more vulnerable in a way in that they are less organized and not able to bounce back and repair themselves. Unlike like stable healthy cells that work to recover and repair more efficiently.

If radiation is the only additional treatment you are taking it will normally follow three to four weeks after you have had your surgery. If the doctor recommends chemotherapy then the radiation will follow afterwards. The radiation is done at a specific center and on an out patient basis. It will be for five days a week and run around five to six weeks consecutively.

The treatments themselves are painless and run around a half hour in duration. They are computerized for pinpoint accuracy. However, since this is a powerful means of targeting the cancer cells the effect can be that near the end of the treatment the patient may experience extra fatigue. The skin of the breast can also begin to feel tender, a bit swollen and as if it has had a sun burn. The nurses and technicians involved will be able to give pertinent information on how to care for this condition.

Because radiation treatment can have a stronger effect on some individuals and can cause on occasion some serious side problems - such as arm swelling, damage to the lung area, or affect the appearance or consistency of breast tissue - it is important to assess and weigh this option as a treatment. If possible, it is recommended that you schedule a visit with the radiation oncologist to determine if an adjusted form or more focused form of treatment is available to limit the risks.

As with any decision regarding medical treatments it is worthwhile to take the time to discuss with others the outcomes of their circumstances and to gather as much information on the subject as possible. This, at times, is not an easy thing to do, especially when faced with the seriousness of this issue and naturally the fatigue you are dealing with. However, it will allow you to make the best decision possible and will no doubt add to your confidence in a positive outcome.

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