Radiation therapy as primary treatment is a
promising technique for women who have early stage breast cancer.
This procedure allows a woman to keep her breast and involves
lumpectomy followed by radiation (x-ray) treatment.
Once a biopsy has been done and breast cancer has been
diagnosed, radiation treatment usually involves the following
- Surgery to remove some or all of the underarm lymph nodes to
see if the cancer has spread beyond the breast;
- External radiation therapy to the breast and surrounding area;
- "Booster" radiation therapy to the biopsy site.
For external radiation therapy, a machine beams x-rays to the
breast and possibly the underarm lymph nodes. The usual schedule
for radiation therapy is 5 days a week for about 5 weeks. In some
instances, a "booster" or concentrated dose of radiation may be
given to the area where the cancer was located. This can be done
with an electron beam or internally with an implant of radioactive
If you are having radiation therapy as primary treatment for
early stage breast cancer, it should be done by a qualified,
board-certified radiation therapist who is experienced in this form
-The breast is not removed. Lumpectomy
with radiation therapy as a primary treatment for breast cancer
currently appears to be as effective as mastectomy for treating
early stage breast cancer. Because this is a new treatment
procedure, researchers are continuing to collect information on
long-term results. Usually there is not much deformity of
surrounding tissues. This skin usually regains a normal appearance
after treatment is completed.
-A full course of treatment requires
short daily visits to the hospital as an outpatient for about 5
weeks, as well as hospitalization for a few days if implant
radiation therapy is used. Treatment may produce a skin reaction
like a sunburn, and may cause tiredness. Itching or peeling of the
skin may also occur. Radiation therapy can sometimes cause a
temporary decrease in white blood cell count, which may increase
the risk of infection.
For detailed information about radiation therapy, see