Q. Will radiation affect my normal cells?
Radiation is a strong treatment for cancer and can
sometimes affect normal cells. However, normal cells are not as
sensitive to radiation and will usually recover when treatment is
Q. Will anything be done to protect me from excess
The x-ray machine with which you'll be treated has
special protections built in to limit your radiation to the
specific area outlined. If needed, other areas of your body will be
covered by special lead shields.
Q. What will radiation feel like during the
Radiation treatment is like having a regular x-ray;
most patients feel no sensation. You may feel warmth or a tingling,
but you're not likely to feel any pain or discomfort.
Q. Will I be radioactive after treatments?
No. The treatment beam is the only thing that is
radioactive when you receive external radiation therapy. Neither
your normal tissues nor the cancerous tissues are radioactive
during or after treatment. If you have a radiation implant, small
amounts of radiation will be emitted. However, once the implant is
removed, you are no longer radioactive.
Q. What will my breast look like after treatment?
There is no way to predict the cosmetic outcome of
this type of treatment for a particular woman. The extent of the
initial surgery, the size of the breast, the type of incision, and
the effects of radiation on the skin are all factors. However, the
breast usually looks quite normal and most women are pleased that
they chose this breast-saving treatment.
Q. What is chemotherapy and when is it used?
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer
cells. Anticancer drugs are used to reach areas of the body where
cancer cells may be hiding, and to eliminate them before they
multiply and hurt the normal cells and organs. More information on
this supplementary treatment can be found in
You: A Guide to Self-Help During Treatment
Therapy: Facts for Women With Breast Cancer,
both of which are
available from the National Cancer Institute.
Q. How frequently should I plan to see a doctor after
radiation therapy treatment?
Your doctor will tell you when to schedule your first
post-treatment exam. The two of you will then decide whether you
should continue to make regular visits to him or her or to a
medical oncologist, an internist, a gynecologist, or a family
practitioner. Most doctors believe that women treated for breast
cancer should have professional exams every 3 to 6 months for the
first 3 years after surgery. More information on followup exams,
possible signs of recurrence, and taking care of yourself can be
After Breast Cancer: A Guide to Followup Care,
another booklet available from the National Cancer Institute.