Radiation Therapy

What It Is

Radiation therapy uses radiation [the spread of energy as waves, rays or particles] to kill cancer cells. This is also known as radiotherapy. There are two ways to direct radiation to the breast:

  • A machine outside the body (external radiation therapy)
  • Thin plastic tubes put into the breast for a short time. These tubes have material in them that delivers radiation. This method is known as brachytherapy, a type of partial breast radiation therapy.

For both types of radiation therapy, the patient is treated in the hospital. External radiation therapy treatment lasts about five days a week for a number of weeks. Partial breast treatment is done twice a day for five days. The tubes are removed from the breast after the treatment is done.

Radiation therapy is often done after surgery that leaves most of the breast. This includes surgery such as lumpectomy or partial mastectomy. Sometimes radiation therapy is done after a mastectomy. This will help kill any breast cancer cells that are still there after surgery.