There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Breast cancer is treated with external radiation therapy.
First you will go through a process called simulation. This is when the radiation therapist uses a special x-ray machine to determine the exact place on your body where the radiation will be aimed. This is called a treatment port or field. Body molds or other devices may be made at this time. These molds are designed to keep you from moving during your treatment. The simulation process may take up to two hours.
The radiation therapist will mark the treatment port with permanent ink so that the exact location is targeted each time. Following this, your doctor and the radiation therapist will decide how much radiation is needed and how many treatments you should have.
Once you have started your treatments your health care team will do a weekly check up to monitor how you are doing. Dosages may be changed during this time. Be sure to voice any concerns and mention any side effect at this time.
Your radiation therapy will likely last for 6 or 7 weeks and typically runs 5 days a week. Each visit will take about 30 minutes. You will be getting radiation anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes during that time.
The video Radiation Therapy:" What to Expect" Breast Cancer is an illuminating look at how radiation therapy works, answers the most commonly asked questions, provides an overview of possible side effects and helps to reduce any anxiety about receiving radiation therapy.
There are also a number of books available:
- Coping With Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy, Daniel Cukier
- The Cancer Chemotherapy Handbook, David S. Fischer, H. J. Durivage, M. Tish Knobf, N. Beaulieu