You may be given radiotherapy to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back in the breast, chest or lymph nodes. The nearest radiotherapy facility is available at RD&E hospital, Exeter and you may need to make a few trips to receive the full treatment. The oncologists regularly visit our hospital and hence you will see them at NDDH, Barnstaple in the clinic.
You usually start radiotherapy four to six weeks after surgery unless you are having chemotherapy. Radiotherapy is given after chemotherapy. You usually have a course of radiotherapy for three weeks. Some women may need up to five weeks. Each treatment takes 10 to 15 minutes and they are usually given from Monday to Friday with a rest at the weekend.
Your cancer specialist or nurse will talk to you about the treatment and possible side effects. Some women may have radiotherapy as part of a clinical trial.
External radiotherapy does not make you radioactive and it is safe for you to be with other people, including children, after your treatment.
Radiotherapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. Normal cells can also be damaged by radiotherapy, which may cause side effects. But careful planning and newer ways of giving radiotherapy have reduced the risk of damage to healthy tissue and nearby organs. Cancer cells cannot repair themselves after radiotherapy, but normal cells usually can. If you have breast-conserving surgery, your cancer specialist will recommend you have radiotherapy to the breast afterwards
Some women have radiotherapy after a mastectomy (removal of the breast). This depends on the risk of the cancer coming back in the chest area. Your cancer specialist may recommend radiotherapy after a mastectomy if: the cancer was large or there were cancer cells in some lymph nodes in the armpit.