To the Sternum

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QUESTION: I am going to talk to three radiation oncologists. My tumor is right near my sternum {"breastbone" in the front/center of your chest} on the left breast (removed, of course, with clear margins), but I have been told that it could come back at the sternum. One doctor told me that with three-node involvement I should have radiation done to try to prevent any recurrence. I am very concerned about the heart matter with radiation, and maybe taking Herceptin. The one oncologist told me not to be afraid of the radiation, that it is specifically targeted to certain areas. I really don't know what to believe and that's why I am going to get three opinions. What do you think?

ANSWER: Ask the radiation oncologists if they do "three-dimensional treatment planning with a CT scan." That way, the radiation dose can be maximized to the area that needs it, and restricted from areas that don't. Having practiced with and without the "bells and whistles" myself, I can tell you that I think it makes a big difference.

Getting several opinions from radiation oncologists with expertise in breast cancer should prove to be helpful.

—Marisa Weiss, M.D.

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