Radiation Therapy in Midland Park, NJ
Radiation therapy, also sometimes known as radiotherapy is a treatment option that is usually performed after a lumpectomy. Your doctor may also recommend radiotherapy after a mastectomy if the tumor was greater than 5 cm and it had spread to the lymph nodes. The purpose of this treatment is to eliminate any cancer cells that may have been left behind after the majority of affected breast tissues were removed.
Types of Radiation Therapy
Radiotherapy can be transmitted to the cells from an external source or delivered internally with radioactive materials such as pellets or seeds.
External radiotherapy is the most common form of radiation treatment. During the procedure, an oncologist will use a linear accelerator to immerse the areas where cancer may be present with a focused beam of high-powered energy. These areas will generally include the entire breast region, and in some cases the lymph nodes under the arms as well. The purpose of the beam is to damage the DNA of cancer cells which will prevent them from dividing and spreading.
Your doctor will likely not begin radiation treatment until you are fully healed from surgery, but once treatment begins, you may have to come into the office five days a week for a span of five to seven weeks. These visits usually last about half an hour. Towards the end of the therapy, the specific site where cancer existed will receive a boost of radiation to ensure that any remaining cancer cells are destroyed.
Internal radiation is still a relatively new procedure, but may be considered as a way to limit the amount of potential damage done to healthy cells, and reduce the overall treatment time.
The process involves the insertion of small tubes or catheters into the site where cancer existed. During your visit, your doctor will fill these tubes with radioactive pellets or seeds in an effort to damage any cancer cells that could remain after a lumpectomy or mastectomy. You will need to remain on site while these radioactive materials are in place.
Although radiation therapy is extremely effective in damaging cancer cells, there is no way of preventing damage to healthy cells as well. Healthy cells are much more effective at repairing themselves than cancer cells, but during the course of treatment, some side effects may still occur:
- External radiotherapy is completely painless, but following the treatment, your skin may become red, itchy, or peeling as if you have sunburn.
- You may experience armpit discomfort, chest pain, or fatigue.
- The breast may swell during treatment, but then shrink when therapy is complete. This is why breast reconstruction is generally postponed until after treatment.
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