Radiations or particles with high energy are used in treatment for destroying cancer cells, this method of treatment is known as radiation therapy. Basing on the requirement the type and amount of radiation to be given is decided by the doctors.
Radiation therapy in breast cancer has its application at different times like before surgery for removal of a tumour, the tumour is subjected to radiations in order to reduce its size by shrinking it, this method is used in neoadjuvant therapy. It is also used after surgery i.e., either after removal of tumour or mastectomy, in order to lower the risk of cancer from recurring or coming back, this method is known as adjuvant therapy. Radiation therapy is also helpful in relieving the pain and also to control the symptom of advanced breast cancer, this method is known as palliative therapy.
For a patient who underwent breast conserving surgery is always subjected to radiation therapy in order to lower the risk of recurring of cancer in the breast, these radiations are given in the form of external beams and are directed towards the entire breast and also to the lymph nodes under the arms. If needed extra doses of radiations are given if the cancer was of high grade, the tumour removed was larger in size, the patient was younger in age and if the cancer cells removed after surgery show positive surgical margins. In case of mastectomy radiations are directed towards the area where the entire breast has been removed along with the lymph nodes present under the arm as well as in the front of the shoulder. Radiation therapy after mastectomy is suggested when the tumour was larger than 5cm in size and had spread to different parts of muscles and lymph nodes.
Before a patient is subjected to radiation therapy certain things are taken into consideration like healing up of wound, chemotherapy etc. After surgery radiation therapy is given to the patient only after complete healing of the wounds. If a patient has to be treated with both chemo and radiation, then radiation is performed only after chemotherapy is completed. Radiation therapy shows some side effects like fatigue, breast pain, changes in the size and shape of the breast, difficulty in moving the shoulder, skin problems, lymphedema, heart damage and inflammation of the lungs. These side effects suggest that the side effects depend on the area which is exposed to radiation, dosage of radiation, treatment schedule and the size of the area being treated.
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