Breast cancer treatment – Radiotherapy

This breast cancer treatment uses very high energy rays to destroy the cancer cells.

Target of radiotherapy

  • Like surgery, radiotherapy is a topical breast cancer treatment. Depending on the case, it is used to:
  • limit the risks of local recurrences of the disease after surgery;
  • make it possible to maintain the breast in the best possible condition;
  • treat the tumor directly when surgery is not possible;
  • Irradiate the various gland areas around the chest when a glandular clearance through surgery has revealed a large number of overgrown glands.

Irradiation techniques

Radiotherapy can be applied using two techniques. Depending on your specific case of breast cancer, the treatments can be combined.

Breast cancer treatment - Radiotherapy

External radiotherapy

The rays come from a device that is outside the body. You usually do not need to be hospitalized for this. The rays are administered 5 days a week for several weeks in a row. In certain special cases, irradiation takes place during the operation (this is the Mobetron technique).

Internal radiotherapy

The radiation source is in thin tubes that are temporarily placed in the chest. For this form of radiotherapy you have to stay in the hospital for a few days.

Radiotherapy and prosthesis 

A breast prosthesis is best placed a year after the radiotherapy. After all, the structure of the skin changes months and even years after the irradiation. Radiotherapy is possible on an already inserted prosthesis (in case of recurrence).

Side effects of radiotherapy

The irradiation irritates the healthy tissue of the treated area and leads to:

  • an injury to the skin (similar to a minor burn)
  • itching
  • dry skin (the top skin cells come off)
  • pigmentations

After a large number of radiotherapy sessions, patients can experience general fatigue that can be felt little by little. Breast cancer treatment with radiotherapy can have other side effects, such as a swollen breast or the appearance, after several years, of a network of superficial, dilated blood vessels (telangiectasia). Also suffer from skin redness (erythema) in the folds occur, especially with a large sunken chest.

These reactions can be aggravated by pre-existing skin lesions (fungal diseases) or with the use of cosmetics, especially if they contain alcohol.

Some practical tips for complaints with radiotherapy

  • Wash the irradiated area with clean, lukewarm water without soap.
  • Avoid deodorants, skin products, and patches on that area.
  • Use talcum powder in the armpit and under the breast to keep those naturally sweaty areas dry.
  • Avoid too tight underwear and do not wear a bra if possible.
  • Protect the skin with a cotton undershirt.
  • After radiotherapy, use cosmetic creams to treat the red rash, itching, dehydration, and skin pigmentation.

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