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How You Get Radiation for Breast Cancer

Your radiation oncologist maps out your treatment plan. Then, a radiation therapist gives you the radiation. There are a few ways to do that.

  • External radiation. For this treatment, radiation comes from a machine. It’s directed from outside of your body. It’s the most common type of radiation used to treat breast cancer. You usually get external treatments once a day for five days in a row. You’ll do this for five to seven weeks. Each session takes only a few minutes. You can have it done as an outpatient. That means you don’t need to stay overnight in a hospital. You cannot see radiation. It is a painless treatment.

  • Internal radiation therapy. This is also called brachytherapy or implant radiation. For this treatment, radiation is directed from inside the body. The radiation therapist places small thin tubes of a radioactive substance directly into the breast where the tumor used to be. This is less commonly used for breast cancer. If your doctor does recommend it, you’ll most likely have it after or even, in some cases, in place of external radiation. You may need to stay in the hospital for a few days. You may have nausea as a side effect. It should go away when the tubes are removed.

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