What exactly does radiation treat?


Question from Tina: If surgery has removed my breast, and chemo has chased down the cancer cells in my body, then what is left for radiation to get?
Answers - Lydia Komarnicky, M.D. That's a good question. We know that—based on tumor size and the number of lymph nodes involved — there are patients who still require radiation therapy after other combined modalities, such as surgery and chemotherapy.

Our literature shows that there may be an increased risk for having the tumor come back in certain scenarios, and your radiation oncologist can help make a recommendation for this. Based on tumor size — usually over 4 cm and multiple positive nodes — is a scenario where radiation therapy after chemotherapy and mastectomy would be recommended.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. One area we're still waiting for a clear answer is in premenopausal women after mastectomy and chemotherapy, with only a few positive nodes. The New York Times just did an article about this 'gray area.' Each of you is unique and different and deserves individualized guidance from a top-notch radiation oncologist to find out if radiation is likely to benefit you.
Lydia Komarnicky, M.D. You have to weigh the side effects of the radiation vs. the benefit of the treatment.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. In your particular situation.

Editor’s note: In March 2014, research was presented at the European Breast Cancer Conference that strongly suggests that women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer with one or more positive lymph nodes would benefit from radiation after mastectomy.

On Wednesday, March 17, 2004, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Radiation Therapy UpdatesLydia T. Komarnicky, M.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about advances in radiation therapy: the newest and best techniques, combining radiation therapy with other treatments, ways to manage, reduce or eliminate side effects, and more.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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