Radiation Therapy after Mastectomy

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    Introduction     |    Radiation For Breast Cancer      |     start radiation after breast surgery           

Radiation therapy is the process in which high-energy rays are used on patients with breast cancer to control or destroy the malignant cells. This is the medical use of ionizing radiation to control cell growth during which the DNA of malignant tissues is damaged leading to cellular death.

When mastectomy is performed and the breast is removed, it is likely that not every breast cell tissue has been taken out from the surgery site. The risk involved in such a case is the recurrence of the cancer due to the remnant malignant cells. Therefore, your surgeon will advise that you undergo radiation therapy in order to destroy leftover cancer cells on the chest wall and nearby lymph node areas.

Radiotherapy can reduce the recurrence of cancer and improve survival by destroying the ability of cancer cells to multiply.

How to Decide on radiation for breast cancer?

Before deciding on radiotherapy for breast cancer, the surgeon will take into account several conditions like tumor type and size, location, stage and general health of the patient.

Radiation is recommended if…

  • Size of the tumor removed is 5 cms and more

  • During pathology it is discovered that breast cancer cells have invaded the little lymphatic channels or the little veins within the breast

  • One or more numbers of lymph nodes are involved

  • Cancer cells are discovered near edge of the tissue removed

  • After breast conserving surgery to reduce recurrence of cancer

Radiotherapy after mastectomy or lumpectomy is usually external beam radiation which is the most common type of radiation treatment. In this process rays are directed at the affected area killing the malignant cells. During this procedure, it is highly likely that surrounding healthy tissue may also be damaged but they recover easily.

When to start radiation after breast cancer surgery?

Your surgeon together with the radiation oncologist will decide the timing of your radiotherapy - whether you need it immediately after surgery or must wait for other treatments like chemotherapy. So, you may be told to go for surgery and then radiation or surgery, chemotherapy and then radiation or chemotherapy, surgery and then radiation treatment. Usually, it is surgery, chemotherapy and then a wait of some weeks before radiotherapy.


What are the side effects of radiation therapy?

Radiation exposes you to several side-effects but most of these are short term. Some of these are swelling and heaviness in the breast, fatigue and skin irritation, change in the skin tone color, breast firmness or shrinkage and intestinal discomfort. A condition called lymphedema, which is swelling in the arm or hand, is quite common and occurs because of damage to the lymphatic system. Additionally, those who plan to go in for breast reconstructive surgery may discover that having radiation influences their options.

Lymphedema after breast cancer treatment

Lymphedema may occur following breast cancer surgery. It can be controlled with exercise, diet and use of customized compression sleeves or compression pumps which help drain the collected lymph fluid out of the affected arm. Examples are a whole range of products from LympheDivasJulius Zorn, BSN Medical, Complete Medical Supplies and more.

During and after radiation, you will feel tired and under-the-weather. Your doctor is likely to advise you to take good care of yourself by getting plenty of rest and to drink lots of fluids and eat as healthy as possible. Usually, appetite is affected and you may find food tasteless but seeking a nutritionist’s advice may help. Or alternatively, your doctor will advise the best course of action for you.

Breast cancer motivational gifts

Cheering yourself up with small gifts to yourself could go a long way in helping you feel better. Shop for items which may help you feel confident and beautiful throughout the therapy. LuisaLuisa Post Op and Radiation Bra is one good choice to keep the spirits up. LuisaLuisa Post Op and Radiation Cami is another great selection. It has been particularly designed to be worn during radiation therapy and made for moisture wick-away and antibacterial bamboo.


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