Treating Breast Cancer with Radiation

4:50 PM, Jun 9, 2011   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY -- Surgery is often a treatment option for women with breast cancer.  Following surgery, there's another treatment that's also very effective.

Radiation treatment is often used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells in the breast area.  It's also known as radio therapy.

In basic terms, it kills cancer cells by using a machine to aim beams of radioactive energy at them, while at the same time minimizing the effect to normal surrounding tissue.  The amount of radiation administered and length of treatment varies from patient to patient.

"Some women get radiation not only to their breast, but to their breast and axilla, or their armpit. In some, it's confined just to the breast," said Dr. Shica Kumar with Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Bridgett Thompson is a breast cancer patient who's getting both radiation and chemotherapy, or drug treatment.  She successfully fought breast cancer a few years ago, only to have it return.  Right now, Bridgett has to drive to Roswell in Downtown Buffalo from Fredonia for radiation treatments five days a week.  She says building a support network with friends and family really helps.

"I think that's probably the hardest part, making it fit into your schedule.  I've been so fortunate in that I've had friends who have organized themselves to drive me back and forth every day.  I haven't had to drive myself.  I could have, but it was amazing.  They did that and I think that was the hardest part, is just making that time for it," said Thompson.

Many ask about side effects from radiation treatment.  Doctors say it's really quite tolerable.  Common problems are skin redness or irritation around the treatment area, similar to sunburn, and fatigue.

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