Breast cancer is a deadly condition, which affects more than a million women across India in a year. While the disease is common, its treatment still remains quite complex. Furthermore, how effective the treatment is for you depend on a number of factors, such as your age and the stage at which the doctor diagnoses cancer. If you have breast cancer, your doctor may recommend undergoing radiation therapy. In radiation therapy, doctors use X-rays and other particles to kill off the cancer cells from the body.
How do doctors perform radiation therapy?
Doctors perform radiation therapy in two major ways. These include
• External radiation- In this method, the doctors use a machine to pass X-rays, particles and protons through your breast from outside the body. This is the most common form of radiation treatment for breast cancer.
• Internal radiation- This is a procedure of radiotherapy, where the doctors place a small machine inside your chest cavity along with a radiation source. This is done only when you have already undergone surgery to remove the tumour causing cancer. Even so, the machine is not left inside your body for long, as too much radiation can cause more harm than good.
How long does a radiotherapy course last?
Radiation therapy uses radioactive sources to kill off cancer cells in the body. Even though these rays affect cancer cells more, they can harm healthy cells as well. Therefore, to ensure your safety, normal radiation therapy uses minimal traces of radioactive particles to treat cancer. Due to the low level of radiation passing through your body during each session, you will need to undergo one radiation treatment every day for five days a week. This course will last for 5-6 weeks. However, now, doctors have come up with a shorter course of radiation therapy for breast cancer, referred to as short duration hypofractionated radiotherapy.
What is short duration hypofractionated radiotherapy?
In this form of radiotherapy, doctors will treat your breast cancer with larger doses of radiation, but for fewer sessions. For instance, if you needed 6 weeks of radiotherapy normally, the hypofractionated radiotherapy will cut it down to just 3 weeks. Research indicates that this method is just as beneficial to prevent cancer recurrence as the standard radiotherapy. Furthermore, in the case of the shorter therapy, the short-term side effects from the treatment are minimal, unlike the standard radiation treatment.