About 1 or 2 weeks after the external radiation
therapy has been completed, nearly all women will receive a
concentrated "booster" dose of radiation to the area where the
breast lump was located.
This treatment may be done either externally, using an electron
beam, or internally, using an implant of radioactive material. The
electron beam "booster" is delivered by a type of linear
accelerator machine similar to the one used in external radiation
therapy. The treatment procedure is also similar to that of
external radiation therapy, with the patient coming to the hospital
daily for 5 to 10 days. If you have this type of booster treatment,
you may notice an increase in skin redness at the site of the
electron beam treatments-this is normal.
The implant procedure requires a short hospital stay of 2 to 3
days. Thin plastic tubes are threaded through the breast tissue
where the original lump was removed. This may be done using either
a local or general anesthesia. The number and location of the tubes
depend on the size and location of the tumor that was removed. The
doctor may take an x-ray of your breast after inserting the tubes
to make sure they are in the correct position. When you return to
your hospital room, radioactive seeds (usually iridium) will be
inserted into the tubes. The implant will remain in your breast for
2 to 3 days, during which time it will deliver approximately 2,000
rads to the surrounding tissue.
While the implant is in place, you will stay in a private room
because the implant emits small amounts of radiation, which may be
a possible risk to those who come in close contact with you. For
that reason, visitors and the nursing staff will have to limit
their time with you.
You may notice some breast sensitivity around the area of the
implant, especially if you move around a lot, but you should not
have much pain or other discomfort. If you are uncomfortable, ask
your nurse for some pain medication. You'll be free to move around
your room, sit and read, do needlework or write letters.
The implant will be removed in your room, without anesthesia.
The process feels very much like having stitches taken out. Once it
is removed there is no risk of radiation exposure to others and you
can usually go home.