Available Schedules of Radiation Therapy

Updated 
August 31, 2015

You will receive radiation therapyinfo-icon in an outpatientinfo-icon radiationinfo-icon center. Plan on being there for a about a half hour: 15 minutes to get set up for treatment, and another 15 minutes for treatment itself.

Most treatment centers open early in the morning and close in the late afternoon, Monday through Friday. When scheduling treatment, look at your calendar and choose a time that is convenient for you. Try to set your appointments at that time every day so you can plan around them. Treatment centers are usually willing to be flexible to ensure you receive treatment.

Keeping your scheduled appointments is important because radiation therapy is most effective when you complete a full course without interruption. Call the radiation center right away if you need to cancel an appointment because of an emergency or illness.

Schedules for Whole Breast Radiation

The typical schedule for standard whole breast radiationinfo-icon treatment is once a day, 5 days a week, for 5 to 7 weeks. The last 2 weeks of treatment often include a boost, or extra treatment, to the area where the tumorinfo-icon was found.

The standard therapyinfo-icon doseinfo-icon is 25 fractions (treatments) of 200 cGy (centiGray) per treatment. A Gray, or Gy, is the way radiation oncologists measure the dose of radiation therapyinfo-icon.

Accelerated RadiationThe standard approach of getting radiation for 5 days a week over many weeks can be challenging if you live far away from your treatment facility, have financial problems or can’t take time off work. Your doctor may offer you a different schedule that allows you to receive a slightly higher dose of radiation over a shorter period, usually once a day over 3 to 4 weeks. This is called hypofractionated radiation.

A 2010 clinical trialinfo-icon found that after a lumpectomyinfo-icon, 3 weeks of higher dose radiation worked as well as the standard-dose, 5-week schedule for invasive, lymph nodeinfo-icon-negative disease.

Researchers are studying newer approaches that give radiation over other shorter periods. They are also trying to figure out which people are most likely to benefit from shorter-course radiation.

Schedules for Partial-Breast Radiation

External and internal partial-breast radiationinfo-icon is given over a shorter period, generally twice a day for 5 days, with each treatment taking up to half an hour.

Your doctors might recommend a partial-breast radiation schedule if the traits of the tumorinfo-icon suggest you could benefit from it. This schedule is still under study, so ask your radiation oncologistinfo-icon to explain why it’s recommended.

More In Radiation Therapy

Article August 31, 2015