The concept of breast-conserving surgery requires radiation, also called radiotherapy or radiation therapy. Nowadays, we are able to target the cancerous area while protecting the healthy tissue as much as possible at the same time.
How is radiation carried out?
Generally, radiation therapy is carried out after surgery when wounds are healed but 6-8 weeks after surgery at the latest. Standard treatment is undergone on 5 days a week with a daily single dose over 5 weeks at least. If the dose of the tumor area should be increased, which is called radiation boost, radiotherapy will go on for additional 1-2 weeks.
A new radiotherapy option is the so-called hypofractionated radiotherapy. During this therapy, the daily dose is increased but the total dose decreased, which reduces the complete radiation therapy by 2 weeks.
Side effects radiotherapy
The extent of side effects of radiotherapy depends on the single dose, the complete dose, the volume of radiotherapy and its period.
The skin can react to radiation much like to sunburn: it can redden and become dry. These symptoms vanish quickly after the end of radiation therapy.
It is also possible that the skin color can change (hyperpigmentation) or the subcutaneous tissue can harden later.
What is recommended during radiotherapy?
- try to live as normal as possible, but take a break more often and sleep when you are tired
- if possible, exercise moderately
- avoid underwire bras with metal or lace bras because they can chafe
- refrain from having a sauna or using tanning beds or other tan devices
- protect your skin against direct sunlight during radiotherapy