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Breast Cancer Radiation – What Are The Risks And Complications?

Breast cancer is among the most common cancers among women and in the year 2004, it was cause for 519,000 deaths worldwide.

The most common treatment for breast cancer is surgery, which is followed by drugs and breast cancer radiation.

Breast cancer radiation or radiotherapy for breast cancer patients is an effective way to combat the disease since it targets and destroys the residual cancer cells that are present in the body even after surgery.

There is a lot of apprehension about the possible negative effects of breast cancer radiation and difficult to deal with side effects.

However, the side effects of breast cancer radiation may be quite easy for some women to tolerate and the side effects are not as acute for everyone. It is medically indicated that breast cancer radiation reduces the possible recurrence of the disease by 70%.

Breast cancer radiation is used after surgery, or when surgery is not possible it could be the principle form of treatment for cancer.

The radiation is able to relieve pain of the cancer and may also be used in case the cancer spreads to the bones or to the brain.

In spite of its benefits, however, many women are cautious of breast cancer radiation for its side effects and other possible negative consequences:

  • During radiation, a special high energy beam is used to destroy cancer cells and in the process normal cells are also inevitably affected. So, in the area where breast cancer radiation is carried out, women may experience dryness, soreness or other discomfort though the radiation itself is painless.
  • Fatigue is a commonly occurring side effect of radiation therapy. However with some adjustments most women are able to cope well with this side effect.
  • Immunity decreases somewhat and blood counts also reduce due to the therapy.
  • Less common side effects include sore throat or a dry or raw feeling in the mouth, which some women undergoing breast cancer radiation may experience.

Rarely, some women experience the following:

  • Sometimes scarring could occur due to the radiation
  • Rib fracture could occur in less than one percent of women undergoing breast cancer radiation. This is something that will heal by itself with time
  • In less than 1% of those receiving this treatment there could be lung inflammation. This is again resolved without treatment.
  • Breast cancer radiation has made great strides and advancements in recent times; however in earlier days it was not unknown for the therapy to cause damage to the heart.
  • Another very rare complication that may occur is incidence of other tumors such as sarcoma.

For the most part, however the benefits of breast cancer radiation can be said to outweigh its side effects and possible complications.

It is important to take good care of oneself by eating right, getting plenty of rest and following doctor’s instructions and reporting any unusual symptoms that may occur such as fever, unusual pain, sweating, coughing etc.

Apply moisturizers to the area while avoiding tight clothing for the area receiving radiation.

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