BREAST CANCER TREATMENT
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Radiotherapy is a form of treatment using X-rays and, like surgery, is used to provide local control of the tumor. Radiotherapy is used in three out of four cancer patients. Radiotherapy is used before or after surgery, as a curative treatment alone or in combination with chemotherapy/systemic treatment.
To whom is it performed?
If breast-conserving surgery is preferred, radiotherapy to the remaining breast tissue is absolutely necessary. Radiotherapy after breast-conserving surgery has been shown to significantly reduce tumor recurrence.
If a mastectomy (removal of the entire breast) has been performed, radiotherapy depends on certain rules (e.g. the tumor is adherent to the chest wall or breast skin, there are more than 4 positive lymph nodes in the armpit, etc.).
When is it applied?
Radiotherapy should be given within 6 months after breast surgery. Further delays reduce the chances of success.
In the meantime, if chemotherapy is being administered, either wait for it to finish or interrupt the chemotherapy to undergo radiotherapy and then continue with chemotherapy.
How does it work?
Radiation therapy damages the genetic material of the cells in the treated area. This prevents cells from growing and multiplying. Some cells die immediately after radiation because they are directly affected. Other cells lose their ability to reproduce as a result of damage to their chromosomes and DNA. Radiation therapy damages both cancer cells and normal cells. Most normal tissues heal after treatment.
What are the side effects?
In patients whose axillary lymph nodes have been cleaned, the risk of swelling in the arm (lymph edema) increases if radiotherapy is needed in this area.
Pregnant women are not recommended to undergo radiotherapy because of the risk of harm to the unborn baby.
Today, in a limited group of patients who need to be very well selected, radiotherapy can be applied only around the tumor instead of the whole breast. This can be done after surgery or during surgery (intraoperative radiotherapy).