Radiation therapy for breasts could cause negative side effects. Some begin during treatment. Some may begin months or years afterwards.
Be concerned regarding radiation treatment.
You shouldn’t be concerned about potential adverse effects from radiation treatment.
Discuss your concerns with your healthcare physician about your concerns.
Your doctor could suggest an in-hospital social worker, a psychologist, navigator for patients, or a support group to alleviate anxiety associated with radiation treatment (or breast cancer).
There is no radioactivity.
When you undergo radiation therapy, it is impossible to be exposed to radiation once you have left the treatment facility. There is no danger of radiation exposure for your pets or family members.
Short-term side effects
Most of the time, side consequences of radiation therapy can begin in the first few weeks following the treatment began . When radiation therapy has ended, and the side effects are short-lived, they will typically disappear in 2 weeks [1010.
Inform your radiation oncologist and nurse to understand how sessions have made you feel. They could suggest things like creams to help lessen negative effects.
Skin changes and pain
In the days and hours following treatments, your breast could be swollen. Consult your healthcare doctor about using moderate painkillers such as naproxen, acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease breast tenderness.
The breast that is treated may appear rough or pink (like sunburn), swelling, and itchy. In some cases, the skin peels in the form of sunburn. Your doctor might suggest specific creams for this condition.
Sometimes, the skin peels more and becomes swollen and swollen. The most frequent areas are the skin folds and the bottom of the breasts. If you experience this problem, tell your radiation specialist to be aware. They can give you pads and creams to help the area feel less painful until the area heals.
What do radiation burns look and how do they feel?
Based on the information provided by National Cancer Institute Trusted Source, some patients might experience signs of skin cancer as a result of treatment such as:
Darkening or redness of the skin. It can turn red when white skin is present and darken on dark skin. Also, it can be painful.
Peeling, dry skin, blisters or dryness: Dry Skin, peeling, or blistered in the zone of treatment may turn extremely dry and begin to peel. If skin peels more quickly than it can heal, the patient could suffer from blistered sores.
A swollen face Skin in the treated area may swell and look as if it’s puffy.
Extreme itching the skin of the affected area may itch extremely. It is crucial to stay clear of scratching. This may cause skin to break down as well as infection.
A moist reaction occurs when the surface of the affected area could become dry, sore and affected. This often happens underneath the breasts, where the skin folds are present.
Skin changes appear gradually during treatment with radiation but may occur only within certain regions.
Breastcancer.org informs us that we tend to have these symptoms in areas of the body that are touched by skin, like under the armpit or the breast. The condition can also be seen in areas that have experienced the most sun exposure, like the chest’s upper part.
Different types of radiation therapy available to treat breast cancer
The principal forms of radiation therapy which are used in the treatment of breast cancer include:
- Therapy with radiation from the outside beam
Therapy with external beams (EBRT)
The most popular method of treatment used by patients with breast cancer. The machine is outside of the body. Targets the radiation to the region affected by cancer.
What areas require treatment depends upon whether you’ve had an operation to remove breasts or a mastectomy (BCS), as well as if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes.
If you’ve had the mastectomy, but the lymph nodes did not contain cancer cells, the radiation would focus on your chest, the scar from your mastectomy, and the areas that drain left your body following surgery.
If you’ve had BCS, You will likely receive radiation for all of your breasts (called total radiotherapy for breasts). Additional radiation for the part of the breast that the cancer was eliminated (called”the tumour’s bed) is usually given when there’s a likelihood of cancer returning to return. The booster is usually given when the procedures for the breast as a whole have finished. The same equipment is used. However, it uses less radiation directed at the tumour in the bed. Most women do not experience any adverse effects of boost radiation as opposed to the whole radiation.
If there was cancer within the lymph nodes beneath that arm (axillary lymph nodes), the area could receive radiation treatment, and so on. In some cases, the treated area may also encompass the lymph nodes above that of the collarbone (supraclavicular lymph nodes) and nodes under the breastbone located in the middle of the chest (internal mammary lymph nodes).
If you’ll require treatment with external beams following the procedure, it’s typically not begun until the surgical area has healed. This usually takes one month or even more. If you’re taking chemotherapy, the radiation treatment is typically delayed until the chemotherapy has been completed. Certain treatments following the surgery, such as hormone therapy or HER2 targeted therapy, can be administered simultaneously as radiation.
Long-term side effects
Skin and breast changes
As time passes, the breasts may get firmer or smaller.
It is also possible to experience slight skin tanning around where your breasts were treated or a red-coloured discolouration, particularly in the surgery scar(s) area. This may last forever.
Patients who receive radiotherapy to lymph nodes located in the area of the collarbone and underarm (axillary lymph nodes) or have had the axillary lymph nodes removed could suffer from lymphedema.
Lymphedema refers to a condition where fluid accumulates within the hand or arm, which causes it to increase in size. It can also happen on the chest, breast or the back.
The likelihood of contracting lymphedema increase if the treatment includes (6,16-19):
The removal of lymph nodes in the axillary region in the breast cancer procedure (the greater the number of nodes eliminated, the higher the chance)
The supraclavicular or axillary (above the collarbone) lymph nodes
An individual’s weight also contributes to the likelihood of having lymphedemaThe risk of lymphedema is also higher [6,16-18.
Find out more about lymphedema.
A few rare, immediate short-term adverse reactions
Nausea, hair loss and vomiting
It is uncommon to experience nausea in the case of radiation therapy for the breast.
There is no loss of hair around your neck. However, you may shed some hair beneath your arm or in the chest or breasts being exposed to radiation (this might be a problem for men with breast cancer).
Rare long-term side effects
Though rare, with the modern approach, the adverse effects listed below could occur within a few months or even years following the radiation treatment.
Rib fractures can happen due to radiation that weakens the rib cage close to the treatment site. It is not common with current treatments.
If radiation therapy is administered to the left side of the chest, heart issues could develop later.
There are a variety of techniques being used to reduce the chance. Modern radiation therapy means that heart-related problems are less likely to occur. It is generally very minimal [2020.
Radiation pneumonitis can be described as a lung inflammation that may cause the breath to become short, a dry cough, and a mild fever. The condition is rare in modern medicine and is almost always eliminated when treated.
Anti-inflammatory medications can help relieve signs.
Troubles with the nerves
Brachial plexopathy is a condition that occurs as radiation causes damage to nerves within the chest’s upper region. It can result in constant tingling, pain or weakening of the arm and hand.
Problems with nerves are rare, even with the most modern treatment methods.
The risk of radiation therapy increases, and the possibility of developing a new cancer.
In rare circumstances, treatments to the breast could lead to a second tumour.
The most frequent cancers related to radiation therapy include Sarcomas (cancers of connective tissue) [21-23(21-23). If you are a long-term smoker, radiation therapy can be a risk factor for lung cancer .
The likelihood of having a subsequent cancer is very low. If your radiation specialist suggests radiation therapy, the benefits of treatment surpass the risk.