This is a course of treatment over 3 weeks. It involves attending the hospital every day of the week (Monday to Friday) and getting a short dose of radiation to the breast or chest area. Each hospital visit only takes about 40 minutes.
Radiotherapy is almost always used after breast-conserving surgery for breast cancer and often used after breast-conserving surgery for DCIS.
It is also used after mastectomy and to treat lymph nodes in some women.
Side-effects of Radiotherapy
Many women have very few side-effects from radiotherapy and it is hard to tell that they have had it. Other women are left with obvious radiotherapy changes to the tissue that was treated.
The main side effects are sunburn-like skin changes, discolouration of the skin and thickening of the skin in the region where the radiotherapy was given. In addition, many women feel tired during radiotherapy and for a while afterwards. Quite commonly the radiotherapy area feels quite tender afterwards - this is often permanent.
Some women are more at risk from radiotherapy side effects than others. Women with very large breasts are one such group, hence breast reduction is often discussed in these cases. In addition, some side-effects can be minimised by liberal and frequent application of moisturiser to the radiotherapy area. If you have had radiotherapy this should become a lifelong habit.