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External beam radiation therapy uses doses of radiation to kill cancer cells. A beam of radiation is aimed at the tumour from outside the body. This treatment is given to most women with early-stage breast cancer who choose breast-conserving surgery such as lumpectomy.
Radiation therapy for early-stage breast cancer can be given in two different schedules.
The radiation oncologist will look at the stage of the tumour and other things to help decide which course may be right for you. Ask your doctor to go over both of these options with you.
Radiation therapy is given to most women with early-stage breast cancer who choose breast-conserving surgery such as lumpectomy. It may also be given after a mastectomy if there is cancer in the lymph nodes.
Women who have had breast-conserving surgery may have the option to get hypofractionated radiation. This is a shorter course of treatment but with higher doses of radiation.
Studies have shown that standard and hypofractionated treatment work equally well to keep cancer from coming back in women who have early-stage breast cancer.
Common short-term side effects of this treatment for breast cancer include fatigue, skin changes in the treated area, and swelling in the treated breast. Most will go away within a few weeks after treatment. Your radiation oncologist will provide you with detailed information when you have your consult appointment.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Adaptation Date: 2/10/2021
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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