Breast cancer: What to know about radiation burns during breast cancer treatment?

People were already devastated with the second wave in India of a COVID-19 maelstrom, a furious, ferocious that ravaged the country and its people. Now, there is some relief in death statistics at least in a few states of India. But this doesn’t mean, you're out of the woods! The world is in such a tumultuous state right now. Speaking of, cancer is another dreadful disease that drains out a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, and financially. However, radiation therapy is the best treatment for breast cancer in India

Overview: Breast Cancer:

Breast cancer is a life-threatening disease. It occurs when a group of abnormal cells forms in the breast area causing cancerous tumors which do have a treatment and can be cured if diagnosed at an early stage. It occurs rarely in men and most common in women. It does show some signs and symptoms such as a lump in the breast, bloody discharge from the nipples, and a change in the shape of the breast. Its treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and surgery or a combination of these treatments. 

Breast cancer awareness programs have created an urge to diagnose early symptoms of the disease and helped in treating the disease. The survival rate of breast cancer has increased over time due to a number of reasons namely early detection of the disease, new advances in the treatment, and a better understanding of the disease. 

Moving on, breast cancer treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, and a combination of the treatment. Here, we are going to elaborate on radiation therapy and its side effects. 

Every treatment comes with certain side effects and radiation therapy is no exception. 

What is radiation for breast cancer:

Radiation therapy is the use of high beam X-rays, protons, or other particles to kill tumor cells. Radiotherapy is a non-painful treatment. 

The adverse effects of radiation therapy for breast cancer vary depending on whether you're receiving internal or external radiation, the methodology employed, and the area being treated, whether it's lymph nodes.

External radiation therapy side effects:

The skin changes in the treated area as a side effect of radiation therapy. Patients might experience redness, soreness, itching or burning sensation, darkness of the skin blisters or peeling after the radiation therapy. But fret not, it’s not something that lasts forever, it is part of a treatment that might help you to get rid of breast cancer permanently. Fortis Hospital is considered to be the best hospital for breast cancer treatment in India along with other lists of good hospitals.   

The side effects of the radiation burn breast cancer are very common in patients such as 

 

  • Fatigue

  • Redness

  • Swelling

  • Skin peeling 

 

These side effects occur during the treatment and may cause trouble until the end of the treatment. Once the treatment is completed, your wounds will start to heal. 

Some people will experience spider veins on their skin after the radiation at the breast area. The medical term used for these tiny blood vessels are called telangiectasias that may cause itching or pain. The treatment for this is available if it’s causing too much irritation. You can seek help from your dermatologist. 

The side effects are more visible in patients with fair skin, or who have large breasts or certain health conditions that affect healing, or had a mastectomy and chemotherapy treatment done before radiation therapy. 

Some other radiation therapy side effects include the following:

  • Discomfort in the armpit

  • Swelling in the breast area

  • Change in skin sensation

  • Mild to moderate fatigue 

Other side effects include the following:

  • Swelling in the arms

  • Pain in the chest

  • Stiffness of the shoulder

  • Lung problems

  • Heart problems 

 

Brachytherapy side effects:

The side effect of internal radiation therapy called Brachytherapy includes:

  • Infection

  • Pain in the breast

  • Fluid collecting in the breast

  • Change in the skin may be redness or burning 

  • Damage to fatty tissue in the breast 

 

Radiation burn treatment:

How to manage skin side effects of radiation therapy:

Your skin can be healed easily during and after the radiation therapy in the following ways. Before and after the treatment, take the following precautions to prevent and treat skin irritation:

 

  • Moisturize:

Before you start with your treatment, you must moisturise your skin daily with a medicated ointment namely Radiacare, Aquaphor, A&D, Eucerin, Miaderm or Biafine. You can apply the moisturizer overnight so that you don’t stain your clothes.  If you feel your skin is getting too dry and flaky during the treatment, apply the moisturizer twice and cleanse gently. 

 

  • Dress comfortably:

Wear clothes that are loose and made of cotton. Avoid wearing bras if possible otherwise totally avoid wearing underwire bras. 

 

  • Take care while you shower:

Try to bathe using warm water. Do not allow the shower to hit your breast area directly rather run water over your shoulders or head and drain at the breast area. Use soaps and shower gels that are mild and suitable for sensitive skin only. Completely avoid using loofahs and scrubbers to scrub your skin. Radiation therapy cancer treatment has some side effects but they are the best treatment possible in curing breast cancer. 

 

  • Avoid skin on skin contact:

Skin-to-skin contact should be avoided since it can produce friction, pressure, wetness, and heat. Keep your arm as far away from your body as possible. 

 

  • Use cornstarch:

Dust the breast area on a regular basis to avoid and prevent dampness, friction, and to keep you smelling fresh. You can use a brush to apply cornstarch, which is similar to baby powder. 

 

  • Treat yeast infections before exposing yourself to radiation:

Yeast infection is frequent under the breasts, regardless of radiation therapy, especially in women with big breasts during the summer. Irritation, redness, or a white substance on the skin are all signs and symptoms of yeast infections. Yeast infection can be treated with an antifungal cream or powder. 

 

  • Apply a calming cream or salves on your skin:

If you have mild irritation or burning sensation, and aloe vera can be helpful. You can either try the counter cream called hydrocortisone cream or apply aloe vera gel to soothe the burning. 

 

  • Try cool air:

Remember, whenever you have burning or irritation, never apply heat to the area. You can apply an ice pack to cool the affected area, it will give temporary relief. 

 

  • Blisters or peeling skin should not be rubbed, scrubbed, or picked:

If you notice any blisters or skin peeling, leave the area alone. The old skin shields the new skin until it regenerates beneath it. You can talk to your doctor about how to get rid of the blisters.

If the adverse effects are persistent, your doctor may advise you to stop taking the medication until the afflicted area heals.

 

Conclusion:

Radiation therapy for breast cancer is given to patients along with surgery to kill the remaining tumor cells in the breast area or it may be given before the surgery to treat breast cancer. It does come with some side effects but they are temporary side effects that can be healed with the help of medicines. Furthermore, the benefits of radiation therapy outweigh the risks, making it one of the most effective treatments for curing and treating breast cancer. Before beginning treatment, speak with your doctor about radiation therapy and its potential side effects.

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