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Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. It is usually given to the breast area following breast conservation surgery and sometimes after mastectomy. Radiotherapy is given to help prevent a recurrence in the breast area.

Radiotherapy is not a systemic treatment and only affects the area that is being treated. It is painless, but there are some side effects such as skin redness (similar to sunburn) and tiredness, these are usually mild and are temporary. Radiotherapy involves sophisticated machinery which directs high energy beams at the cancer site and surrounding tissue. The individual treatments are referred to as fractions and take a few minutes a day. A course of radiotherapy can last from 3-6 weeks.

It is necessary to have a planning session before starting the treatment. This is to define the treatment field and decide the position of the beams. A mark will be placed on the skin to ensure accurate delivery of the treatment. A clinical oncologist will make the decision about the planning and the length of time the treatment will take.

The treatment itself will be delivered by radiographers who are specially trained in this field. The advice and support of a radiotherapy or breast care nurse will also be available throughout the treatment period.