What is Breast Radiation?
Radiation therapy is a treatment option for some individuals with breast cancer. During this treatment, high-energy particles are used to destroy the cancer cells in the body. Radiation may be used after a lumpectomy or mastectomy procedure as well. The two main types of breast radiation therapy are external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and brachytherapy.
External Beam Radiation
During this treatment, a machine outside of the body focuses the radiation on the area affected by cancer. The exact area that will need treatment will depend on whether an individual had a mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery, and whether or not the cancer affected the lymph nodes. This type of radiation can be used on the whole breast, the chest wall, or the lymph nodes.
There are some short-term side effects that may be caused by external beam radiation, including:
- Breast swelling.
- Skin changes in the treated area such as redness, skin peeling, or darkening of the skin.
Some side effects that patients may experience later on include:
- Smaller and firmer breasts.
- Problems breastfeeding.
- Lymphedema (pain and swelling in the chest or arm).
- Weakening of the ribs.
- Healing complications during future breast procedures.
Also known as internal radiation, brachytherapy is another radiation option. During this procedure, a device that contains radioactive pellets or seeds is placed into the breast for a short time in the area where the cancer has been removed.
There are also different types of brachytherapy, including intracavitary brachytherapy and interstitial brachytherapy.
This is the most common form of brachytherapy for those with breast cancer. A device is placed into the space left from breast-conserving surgery and is left there until treatment is completed. For each treatment, one or more radiation pellets are placed down through a tube and into the device for a while and is then removed. Treatments are usually given two times a day for five days as an outpatient.
Possible side effects of intracavitary brachytherapy include:
- Breast pain.
- Redness or bruising.
- Damage to the fatty tissue in the breast.
- Weakness of the ribs.
- Fluid collection in the breast (seroma).
During this form of treatment, several small catheters are inserted into the breast near the area where the cancer was removed. These catheters are left in place for several days. Radioactive pellets are then inserted into the catheters for short periods of time every day and then removed.
Tips to Treat Skin Irritation Caused by Radiation
There are many ways that can help to make your skin less sensitive during radiation treatment, including:
- Moisturizing regularly.
- Dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothes.
- Use warm water rather than hot water when bathing.
- Avoid scrubbing when washing.
- Use soothing creams or salves for mild irritation.
- Do not pick at blisters or peeling skin.
PLASTIC & RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGEONS
Our mission at Tucson Plastic Surgery is to provide you with an unparalleled experience by taking time to listen and understand your individual needs and concerns. We believe creating a custom-tailored plan based on your goals and unique anatomy is essential to achieving your best possible results.
Dr. Mahabir is an outstanding breast reconstruction Dr. He is passionate about his work and realizes his reconstruction brings back our self esteem. As for his bedside manners, and spending time with his patients I would give him 10 STARS! He is an outstanding listener, honest about what to expect, and has great patience. I interviewed 4 plastic surgeons, we have a right to interview the Dr. we chose to put us back together again. I consider Dr. Mahabir a LIFESAVER and words cannot express how grateful I am to call him my Dr. If you are looking for a surgeon I can assure you Dr. Mahabir is worth taking the time to interview!”
To learn more about breast radiation and the possible side effects, contact Tucson Plastic Surgery today. We will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.