External Breast Radiation
Radiation therapy (RT) treats cancer and other diseases. It uses high-energy particles to break the DNA in the cancer cells. The cells can’t grow or divide when the DNA is damaged
There are 2 main types of RT:
- External—radiation is delivered by a machine that aims particles at the cells from outside the body
- Internal—radioactive materials are placed in the body near the cells
In certain cases, your doctor may advise using both. It is also used with surgery, chemotherapy, and therapy to spark the immune system to fight infection.
This fact sheet will focus on external RT.
External RT does not cause your body to become radioactive. It can cause side effects. The radiation harms healthy cells and cancer cells. Here are some common side effects:
- Skin changes (redness, irritation)
- Reduced white blood cell count
- Hair loss
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Lack of hunger
Talk to your doctor about the side effects you may have.
Factors that may raise the risk of problems include:
- Previous RT
- If you have had systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma , or dermatomyositis
A woman who is pregnant or could be pregnant should avoid being around radiation. It could harm the growing fetus.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Ionizing Radiation; Radiotherapy)
American Cancer Society https://www.cancer.org
Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America https://www.radiologyinfo.org
Canadian Association of Radiologists https://car.ca
Canadian Cancer Society https://www.cancer.ca
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