7 Myths About Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

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Every breast cancer treatment has its downfalls and its scary moments. But in general, people are more scared of radiation therapy than they should be. The manner in which this treatment is delivered has been improved over the years, and most patients find that their side effects are fairly mild, especially compared to more rigorous or invasive treatments, such as chemotherapy or a mastectomy.

Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, is underused and undervalued, at least in part because people don’t know enough about it and are afraid of it. Some people even confuse radiation therapy with chemotherapy. The lack of education on the subject leads to the development of myths. Here, we’ll dispel some of those myths for you so you can make a more informed decision about whether radiation is right for you.

Here are 7 myths many people still believe about radiation therapy.

7. Radiation therapy will make you radioactive.

This one is technically true, but only for certain cases. Most patients will receive external radiation treatment, which does not make them radioactive or in any way dangerous to those around them. A few patients will receive internal radiation, meaning a small piece of radioactive material is inserted directly into the cancerous tissue. While this material is inside a patient, he or she is technically radioactive but will be quarantined until the material is removed. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about radioactivity during or following your treatment.

6. Radiation therapy is painful.

Radiotherapy patients should not experience any pain during the procedure, although some report a sense of warmth or tingling. Because the treatment affects fast-reproducing cells, both healthy and cancerous, it can cause some pain later on, generally due to skin irritation in the treated area. For most patients, this is fairly mild. For other patients, radiation therapy can be paused for a few days to allow the skin and other healthy cells to recover before continuing.

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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