Breast Cancer Radiation: The Routine

Expect daily weekday treatments for up to six weeks.
In the intimidating trifecta of breast cancer treatmentsurgery, chemotherapy, and radiation—many women find radiation the easiest to deal with. The idea of having a strong dose of radiation beamed at your chest is no one's idea of a good time, but as treatment goes, radiation is relatively painless and side effects are fewer and more manageable than ever before.

If external-beam radiation therapy (the most common kind) is part of your breast cancer treatment, you'll probably have a 20-minute session at a clinic or hospital every weekday for six or seven consecutive weeks. It will go something like this:

Day one
To start off, you'll be measured so that your radiation oncologist and his technicians will know exactly where to aim the radiation beam and how to calibrate the correct dosage. "We do a CAT scan of the breast, heart, and lungs just to see where the structures are," says Jay L. Bosworth, MD, a radiation oncologist with the Nassau Radiologic Group in Manhasset, N.Y., and a Fellow of the American College of Radiology. "And we put tiny tattoo dots—the size of a freckle—on the breast" to ensure the radiation is delivered to the right spot every time.

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Lead writer: Lorie Parch
Last Updated: April 25, 2008

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