What is radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy is treatment that uses ionising radiation to eliminate the tumour cells. The technique is painless and non-invasive. During the treatment, the cells of healthy tissue are also affected, which means that it causes side effects. However, after the treatment is over, these healthy-tissue cells will recover.

For the treatment of breast cancer, 3D conformal external radiotherapy (3D CRT) is used. This requires a CT image to be obtained prior to the radiotherapy sessions so that the areas that need to receive high doses of radiation can be specifically identified.

Essentially, radiotherapy is used in all cases of conservative surgery in order to reduce the risk of local/regional recurrence. Occasionally, it is used before surgery and in radical surgery, depending on the size of the tumour.

Radiotherapy is given on an outpatient basis at Instituto Oncológico Teknon, usually daily, so the patient has to come to the centre every day for 5-6 weeks. The sessions last 15-20 minutes, although radiation is not being received all this time. Before starting the radiotherapy, the technicians mark the skin to make sure the same points are being targeted each time. During the session, the technicians operate in an adjoining room, monitoring the patient through a closed-circuit camera and intercom system.