Radiation therapy for breast cancer uses high-powered X-rays to kill cancer cells. Rapidly growing cells, such as cancer cells, are more susceptible to the effects of radiation therapy than are normal cells.
One of two approaches may be used with radiation therapy for breast cancer:
- External radiation. External beam radiation, the standard type of radiation therapy, delivers radiation in the form of high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays, to your entire breast from a machine outside your body. This is the most common type of radiation therapy used for breast cancer.
- Internal radiation. Internal radiation (brachytherapy) involves temporarily placing small radioactive devices in your breast near the tumor site to deliver radiation to affected breast tissue. Internal radiation may be used as an extra radiation boost after external radiation or for small, contained tumors.
Radiation therapy may be used to treat breast cancer at almost every stage. It's an effective way to reduce your risk of breast cancer recurring after surgery. It can also help control the spread of breast cancer and offer pain relief for advanced breast cancer.