Understanding Breast Cancer – Radiation Therapy

Radiation is a powerful tool in treating your cancer.

Hi. I’m Dr. Brian Missett,

a radiation oncologist, at Kaiser Permanente.

Radiation therapy involves , high energy X-rays directed at the tumor site to kill any cancer cells

that may remain thereafter surgery. These X-rays destroy a cell’s ability to divide and therefore
prevent their growth.

X-rays affect both healthy cells and cancerous cells. But healthy or normal cells
are able to recover and eventually function and grow as they did before.

Cancer cells
are permanently damaged, preventing them from
resuming their growth.

After a lumpectomy,

radiation therapy is directed externally to the entire breast.

External beam radiation therapy uses high energy beams delivered through a large machine called the linear accelerator.

The beams are targeted based on your individual data to minimize exposure to the nearby lungs and heart. Radiation is an outpatient procedure

that generally occurs five days a week

for an average of three to six and a half weeks.

The procedure itself is painless and takes only a few minutes.

So with radiation therapy we commonly see some reddening of the breasts

much like a mild to moderate sunburn.

The most common side effects
from radiation are

fatigue and a skin reaction
similar to a sunburn.

Your radiation oncologist will work with you to help minimize
these side effects.

Your radiation oncologist will discuss all aspects of your radiation therapy with you, answer your questions and help you through this portion of your treatment.

We want to work collaboratively with you toward the best possible outcome.

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