Radiation therapy for metastatic breast cancer

Radiationinfo-icon is a local therapyinfo-icon that controls specific areas of cancer where it has spread. This may include your lymphinfo-icon nodes or other parts of your body.

Radiation therapyinfo-icon focuses the power of high-energy x-rays on areas of your body that need to be treated. The radiation is thought to cause breaks in strands of DNA, which can keep the cancer cells from dividing. 

In metastaticinfo-icon breast cancer, radiation is used to shrink tumors, to improve your quality of lifeinfo-icon and to decrease pain. Most often, radiation is used to:

  • Manage pain from tumors in the bone
  • Treat or prevent symptoms secondary to breast cancer in the brain or lungs
  • Lessen pain and prevent injury to the nerves by treating tumors of the spine that are pushing on the spinal cord

It’s unlikely that radiation will get rid of the cancer completely. It may improve pain or symptoms from nerveinfo-icon damage and in doing so improve your quality of life.

How You Get Radiation

Most often, radiationinfo-icon is given by external beam. A machine directs high-energy rays from outside your body at the cancer.

The doctor finds the exact areas to be treated after a physical exam and a review of your radiologyinfo-icon tests. Next, you will lie on a flat table while the doctor finds the areas to be treated. Small tattoos the size of freckles are placed on the skin to ensure the treatments are precise.

The total doseinfo-icon of radiation and the number of treatments vary based on the size and location of the cancer, the reason for treatment, other treatments you are receiving and your overall health.

Radiation Side Effects

The side effects of radiation therapyinfo-icon are very specific to where you receive the treatment. If you receive radiationinfo-icon to the liver, for example, it’s possible to have nauseainfo-icon or vomiting. In brain mets, radiation treatment can cause changes in thinking and memory. Talk with your radiation oncologistinfo-icon before and during treatment about side effects, so you know what to expect. Your providers can help you prepare.

August 31, 2015

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