Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy x-rays, or other types of radiation, to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. There are two types:
- External beam radiation is usually used after a lumpectomy as part of breast conservation therapy. It can be administered as partial breast radiation ( only a portion of the breast receives treatment) or whole breast radiation. In some cases it is recommended after mastectomy in more advanced stages of the cancer.
- Brachytherapy places radioactive material inside your body using tubes or catheters placed inside the breast tissue.
Side-Effects of External Beam Radiation Therapy
- Red, sunburn-like rash where the beam is aimed
- Change in breast tissue (swollen or more firm)
- Arm swelling if given in combination with axillary node dissection
Studies are underway to determine if women who have undergone a lumpectomy could benefit from partial breast irradiation. This involves higher doses of radiation aimed at only a part of the breast rather than the entire breast. The radiation dose can be delivered from an external beam, or from tubes or catheters placed inside the breast tissue (brachytherapy).