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Radiotherapy| uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells.
Radiotherapy can be used to help pain and other symptoms when breast cancer has spread to the following parts of the body:
Radiotherapy is usually given as a series of short, daily treatments, Monday-Friday, in the radiotherapy department. You may need only one or a few sessions of treatment. Radiotherapy isn’t painful, but the position you have to lie in for the few minutes it takes may be uncomfortable. Taking a painkiller half an hour before your radiotherapy may help.
Radiotherapy doesn’t make you radioactive and it’s perfectly safe to be with other people, including children, after treatment. If you have any questions about radiotherapy, you can ask your doctor or the staff in the radiotherapy department.
Usually when radiotherapy is given to improve symptoms the side effects aren’t too troublesome, especially if you’re only having one or two treatments.
Radiotherapy can make you feel tired| and this sometimes lasts for a few weeks after treatment finishes. But the other side effects will depend on the part of your body being treated and how much radiotherapy you’re having.
Radiotherapy to the bones usually causes few side effects. If the area being treated is near the tummy, such as the ribs or the spine, you may feel sick|. This can be controlled by taking anti-sickness drugs, which your specialist can prescribe.
Radiotherapy to the brain can cause hair loss|. The hair usually starts to grow back within a few months after the treatment has finished, although it may not grow back completely. This treatment can also make you feel very sleepy or drowsy for a few weeks.
Content last reviewed: 1 September 2010
Next planned review: 2013
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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