Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer and Its Side Effects

Radiation therapy is used for the treatment of cancer. A large machine called a linear accelerator is used to deliver precise amounts of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. The radiation not only stops the reproduction of cancer cells but also minimizes damage to healthy tissues. On early diagnosis of cancer, radiation therapy has shown high survival in women with breast cancer.

Radiation therapy for breast cancer can be used as the main treatment for breast cancer if the surgeon believes the tumor cannot be safely removed, or if a woman's health does not allow surgery. If the cancer spread into the bones or the brain or if there is pain or other problems when the cancer recurs, radiation therapy for breast cancer is the preferred method. After lumpectomy or mastectomy, radiation therapy is used either alone or in combination with chemotherapy and/or hormone therapy, so as to reduce the risk of cancer re-growing in the breast.

Radiation therapy is a painless method. Some common side effects experienced in women include redness, discomfort, and dryness of the skin in the treated area. The redness can take almost a year to fade. Fatigue is yet another side-effect that increases during the duration of treatment and goes away about a month after the treatment ends. Reduced blood count is yet another side-effect. At times, women also experience a sore mouth or throat, if these areas are irradiated. However, advancement in radiation therapy for breast cancer has helped women avoid long-term side effects.

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