You will have daily radiotherapy following a planning appointment
What happens before treatment?
You will need to attend a radiotherapy planning appointment before your treatment starts. This is to identify the exact areas which need treatment. During the planning appointment you will be asked to lie down and a radiographer – a specialist trained in operating radiotherapy equipment – will carefully position you and take images of your chest using a CT scanner. If you feel uncomfortable, tell the radiographer as you will need to be able to lie comfortably in this position during your actual treatment sessions.
Once the areas for treatment have been agreed, your skin will be permanently marked with small ‘tattoos’ so you can be positioned in exactly the same way every time you have treatment. These tattoos are usually a few (four or fewer) black dots the size of a small freckle. The process of making these marks can be slightly uncomfortable.
There will normally be a short period of time (usually one to three weeks) between this appointment and the start of your treatment to give your breast care team time to plan your radiotherapy.
What happens during treatment?
You will normally have daily treatment (Monday to Friday) over a period of three weeks.
At the start of each treatment you will be placed in the position agreed during your planning appointment. Radiotherapy is given externally, through the skin, using a large machine that emits radiation, called a linear accelerator or Linac. The machine is positioned above your breast or chest wall, without touching it, and moves around you as it delivers treatment from different angles. This helps target the radiation to the tumour area while avoiding healthy tissue as much as possible.
Each treatment takes just a few minutes. It is very important that you lie still during treatment, although the movement caused by breathing is fine. You should relax as much as possible.
If your tumour is on your left side, you may be given breathing exercises to perform during your treatment to prevent exposure of your heart to x-rays.
Information last reviewed: November 2017
Next review due: November 2020
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