Radiotherapy consists of special X-rays delivered to the breast after surgery for breast cancer.
Almost all patients who have their breast conserved during breast cancer treatment with a lumpectomy will ultimately require radiotherapy to the breast after surgery, in order to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Some patients will also be recommended radiotherapy after mastectomy, particularly those who had large tumours or spread of the cancer to lymph nodes in the armpit.
Not only has radiotherapy been shown to reduce the chances of the breast cancer coming back, but it also improves survival in patients with invasive breast cancer i.e. when it can potentially spread to the lymph glands or to other organs.
Radiotherapy is usually delivered in daily doses over three to five weeks except for the weekends. Each radiotherapy session takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. During each session you will be placed in a comfortable supine position (lying flat on your back), with one arm placed above your head.
Most women are able to work and carry on with their normal lives throughout radiotherapy.
The side effects of radiotherapy can include fatigue, peeling of the skin, hardening of the breast tissue and swelling or redness of the breast.
Before your radiotherapy, you will meet with a Clinical Oncologist (a specialist in radiotherapy), to plan for your treatment sessions. You will be given special advice about how to take care of your breast during radiotherapy.