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Breast Cancer - Nine Things to Know About Radiation Therapy

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When people hear that they will be having radiation therapy, it can be a very scary feeling. Just what is it? First of all, radiation therapy is a widely used procedure that includes the use of a unique high-energy beam to kill cancer cells, as defined by BreastCancer.org. Although it is true that some healthy cells might be destroyed along the way, more cancer cells are affected than anything. This may be due to cancer cells’ inability to organized, making it harder to repair or replace themselves after radiation treatment.

It is important for the facts to be laid out, eliminating any myths that spread more fear. Please note the following 10 points that BreastCancer.org lists:

Radiation is a local, targeted therapy designed to kill cancer cells that may still exist after surgery. Radiation is given to the area where the cancer started or to another part of the body to which the cancer has spread.

The actual delivery of radiation treatment is painless. Even though some patients report a “warming or tingling” sensation in the area of the treatment, it is not so intense that patients have to stop treatment.

External radiation – the most commonly used – does not make the patient radioactive. However, with internal radiation, it is different. The radioactive material is inside your body. Which is why when the internal radiation treatment is performed, the patient will be secluded in a private hospital room.

Treatment is usually given five days a week for up to seven weeks. Sometimes radiation may be given twice a day for one week.

Since the daily appointments usually take about 30 minutes, you’ll most likely be able to follow most of your normal routine during treatment.

Radiation does not cause you to lose the hair on your head. The hair that you will lose is on your breast area and under your arm nearest to your treated breast. Any hair loss will grow back. Many people confuse the effects of chemotherapy – which is given first – with that of radiation. Chemotherapy will cause you to lose your hair on your head. But with radiation, unless you’re taking radiation on your head, your hair in this area will not fall out.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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