Breast Cancer: Radiation Therapy: What to Expect

Quick GuideBreast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

How Will The Radiation Therapist Know I Am In The Correct Position?

The radiation therapist will take a "port film," also known as an X-ray, on the first day of treatment and approximately every week thereafter. Port films verify that you are being accurately positioned during your treatments.

Port films do not provide diagnostic information, so radiation therapists cannot learn about your progress from these films. However, port films are important to help the therapists maintain precision in your treatment.

Why Are There Marks On My Skin?

Small marks resembling freckles will be tattooed on your skin along the treatment area by the radiation therapist. These marks provide a permanent outline of your treatment area. Do not try to wash these marks off or retouch them if they fade. The therapist will remark the treatment area when necessary.

Will My Diet Make A Difference On The Effect Of My Treatment?

Yes. Good nutrition is an important part of recovering from the side effects of radiation therapy. When you are eating well, you have the energy to do the activities you want to do, and your body is able to heal and fight infection. Most importantly, good nutrition can give you a sense of well-being. Since eating when you don't feel well can be difficult, a dietitian can help you find ways to get the nutrients you need during your radiation therapy.

What Side Effects Will I Have?

During your treatment, radiation must pass through your skin. You may notice some skin changes in the area exposed to radiation. Your skin may become red, swollen, warm, and sensitive -- as if you had a sunburn. It may peel or become moist and tender. Depending on the dose of radiation you receive, you may notice a loss of hair or decreased perspiration within the treated area.

These skin reactions are common and temporary -- they will subside gradually within four to six weeks of completing treatment. If skin changes appear outside the treated area, inform your doctor or primary nurse.

Long-term side effects, which can last up to a year or longer after treatment, may include a slight darkening of the skin, enlarged pores on the breast, increased or decreased sensitivity of the skin, a thickening of breast tissue or skin, and a change in the size of the breast.

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