Radiation therapy for breast cancer

We offer the latest advances in radiation therapy treatment for breast cancer to ensure you receive the best possible care.

Radiation therapy treatment for breast cancer

Radiation oncologists use radiation for patients with breast cancer to destroy cancer cells, reduce their growth or to relieve symptoms. Radiation therapy treatment is usually used for women who have had breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) and sometimes after a mastectomy.

There are many different radiation therapy techniques that may be suitable for your breast cancer. The treatment you receive will depend on the size and stage of your cancer, your age and general health. Most importantly our doctors will ensure that, with your input, a personalised plan is developed which meets your own individualised medical and social needs.

Although radiation was traditionally given over five to six weeks, for many patients who have had breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) the treatment time can be reduced to three to four weeks or even shorter for selected patients.

External beam radiation therapy

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) uses one or more beams to deliver high energy x-rays from outside the body to the cancerous area. Treatment is usually given over three to six weeks; each treatment is about 15 minutes.

Types of EBRT which can be used for the treatment of brain cancer include:

  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – a high precision type of radiation therapy that uses computer controlled linear accelerators to deliver precise radiation to your breast or chest area after surgery, whilst minimising the dose to the underlying organs such as the heart and lungs
  • Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) – a novel radiation therapy technique that delivers the radiation dose continuously as the treatment machine rotates. This technique accurately shapes the radiation dose to the tumour while minimising the dose to surrounding organs

Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) is used to ensure EBRT is delivered as accurately as possible. This involves advanced imaging equipment and computer software such as MRI, CT and x-ray to increase the radiation therapist’s ability to precisely target a tumour with radiation beams. A low-dose CT scan or x-ray image is done before treatment to ensure your radiation plan is delivered precisely every day with sub-millimetre accuracy.

If you have had a lumpectomy, sometimes an extra dose of radiation is given to the region where your tumour has been removed. This can be done using an integrated “boost” as part of a VMAT or IMRT plan or following treatment to the whole breast.

Reducing the risk of damage to your heart

Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) is a technique for left-sided breast cancer patients that reduces the potential impact of radiation on the heart. The process involves holding a certain number of breaths for short bursts during treatment which allows the heart to move backwards into the chest while the breast is exposed to radiation.

Delivering reduced treatment sessions for selected patients

The UK Fast-Forward trial, which was published in The Lancet Journal, recently investigated whether radiation therapy for breast cancer can safely be shortened from four weeks to one week with five consecutive treatments.1 While preliminary findings of the trial have shown that the risk of cancer returning seems to be just as low when treatment is delivered in one week compared with three weeks, it’s important that radiation therapy treatment is personalised to you and your cancer, which will help determine how long your treatment will take and the number of sessions you require. Usually your treatment can be given in as short as 15 treatments (three weeks). Bowen Icon Cancer Centre now offer five fraction whole breast irradiation for highly selected patients (e.g. > 50 years of age with low-risk, node-negative breast cancer) in the first instance.

Starting radiation therapy

Knowing what to expect can help you prepare for your first radiation therapy visit.
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Our doctors

Our centre brings together a dedicated team of radiation oncologists.
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Frequently asked questions

Learn answers to some common concerns and misconceptions about radiation therapy.
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Contact us

  • 04 896 0200
  • Level B3, Bowen Specialist Medical Centre 98 Churchill Drive Crofton Downs Wellington 6035