What is Radiotherapy?
Radiotherapy is also known as radiation therapy and is an X-ray treatment using high-energy beams to damage the cancer cell’s DNA, limiting the cell’s ability to divide.
Who is Radiotherapy suitable for?
Radiation therapy can be used as a treatment for all stages of breast cancer, and particularly after a lumpectomy or mastectomy.
Radiation therapy is recommended after a lumpectomy because the radiation is used to destroy any cancer cells that may be left behind in the breast after removal of the lump. During a mastectomy or breast removal it is not always possible to remove every cancer cell. Radiation therapy is used to destroy any breast cancer cells that may remain at the site of the mastectomy.
If any of the following factors apply then radiation therapy is recommended to reduce the risk of the breast cancer returning:
- Cancer is found in the lymph channels and blood vessels in the breast. Four or more lymph nodes are affected or 1 lymph node if you are pre-menopausal.
- The size of the cancer either singularly or combined measures 5cm or bigger.
- There is a positive margin of resection in the removed tissue.
- The cancer has invaded the skin either with locally advanced or inflammatory breast cancer.
Radiation therapy is not suitable:
- During pregnancy.
- If you have previously had radiation in the area affected.
- If you have scleroderma or vasculitis.
How does Radiotherapy work?
Radiotherapy uses radiation to destroy the cancer cells in the specific area being treated. Normal cells can be damaged by radiotherapy but they will repair themselves.
How is Radiotherapy for breast cancer given?
Radiotherapy for breast cancer is applied using medical equipment that is similar to a large x-ray machine. The treatment is painless, although it may cause side effects, particularly tiredness.
Being treated by external radiotherapy does not make you radioactive, and you are safe to be around your friends and family including children.