Breast Cancer Home > Breast Cancer Radiation
Doctors use two types of radiation therapy to treat breast cancer. Some women receive both types.
In external radiation, the radiation comes from a large machine outside the body. Most women go to a hospital or clinic for treatment. Treatments are usually 5 days a week for several weeks.
Internal Radiation (Implant Radiation)
In internal radiation (also called implant radiation), thin plastic tubes (implants) that hold a radioactive substance are put directly into the breast. The implants stay in place for several days. A woman stays in the hospital while she has implants. Doctors remove the implants before she goes home.
Side effects associated with radiation therapy depend mainly on the dose and type of radiation and the part of your body that is treated.
It is common for the skin in the treated area to become red, dry, tender, and itchy. Your breast may feel heavy and tight. These problems will go away over time. Toward the end of treatment, your skin may become moist and "weepy." Exposing this area to air as much as possible can help the skin heal.
Bras and some other types of clothing may rub your skin and cause soreness. You may want to wear loose-fitting cotton clothes during this time. Gentle skin care also is important. You should check with your doctor before using any deodorants, lotions, or creams on the treated area.
These effects of radiation therapy on the skin will go away. The area gradually heals once treatment is over. However, there may be a lasting change in the color of your skin.
You are likely to become very tired during radiation therapy, especially in the later weeks of treatment. Resting is important, but doctors usually advise patients to try to stay as active as they can.
Although the side effects of radiation therapy can be distressing, your doctor can usually relieve them.
Once a breast has been irradiated, it cannot be irradiated again. Any local recurrence or new tumor will likely have to be treated by mastectomy.