Two years ago, almost 240,000 women in the United States have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The numbers have declined because women are now more aware of their risks to breast cancer and several treatment options are developed. One of these treatments is radiation for breast cancer.
Radiation for breast cancer uses a specialized machine called a linear accelerator. This machine is so precise that it can deliver high amounts of energy to kill cancer cells. This special kind of energy is carried by waves or a stream of particles towards the affected tissues or bodily organs.
However, this kind of treatment may not apply to anybody who has breast cancer.
While the procedure is painless, side effects are inevitable. Therefore, below are facts that will help determine if radiation for breast cancer is necessary.
7 things you should know about radiation for breast cancer
1. This kind of treatment is usually administered after a patient has undergone a lumpectomy or mastectomy. The former is a kind of operation where only the affected portions of the breasts are removed. Meanwhile mastectomy involves the removal of the entire breast. It is after these surgeries where radiation for breast cancer is needed. Having this treatment, either alone or with chemotherapy, arrests the growth of cancer cells or reduces its recurrence.
In addition, doctors recommend radiation for breast cancer whenever a patient may not be operated or refuses to be operated.
2. Studies revealed that radiation for breast cancer lowers the chances of a patient for relapse.
3. If the cancer cells have metastasized to the bone and the brain, absence of any operation, radiation therapy is given.
4. Radiation for breast cancer works like a chemotherapy. It works to destroy abnormal cells that cause cancer. However, it does not have similar side effects as that of chemotherapy.
5. When radiation for breast cancer is an option for the patient, she must be made to understand that the procedure is painless. Side effects may come in the forms of over-fatigue, dizziness, redness of the skin, discomfort and low blood count.
6. The most important side effect of radiation for breast cancer to be considered is skin irritation. “Moist desquamation” or the peeling and blistering of the skin is manifested in the area which has been given a radiation boost. Patients are required to heal first before another session of radiation is given. However, for patients with lesser areas of “moist desquamation”, treatment may be given uninterruptedly.
7. In extreme and isolated cases, radiation for breast cancer may cause rib fractures, lung inflammation and heart disease, increased arm swelling and scarring. All these side effects however comprise only about 1% of the total recorded cases.
Few years ago, radiotherapy is believed to cause damage to the heart. However, doctors have developed radiation techniques to address this issue. With the advent of technology in the fields of science and medicine, all possible treatment options for cancer have been improvised, strengthened and enhanced. Radiation therapy is one of them.