High Dose Radiation Therapy: A Rapid, Convenient Outpatient Therapy Option for Breast Cancer Patients

Those diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer have a multitude of treatment options, each with their advantages and disadvantages. But for many, researching various therapies or just identifying where to start can be stressful.

While treatments can vary significantly from patient to patient, the cancer specialists at Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology are available every step of your decision and therapy journey.

For many, High Dose Radiation Therapy (HDR) can be a powerful treatment option thanks to its many benefits. HDR Therapy is a form of brachytherapy consisting of inserting a high-level radioactive source directly into an area potentially affected by cancer cells. A treatment  is typically completed in as little as 10 to 20 minutes.

Although the research results are very positive, brachytherapy is not widely available. However, it may be a great option for a woman with a smaller tumor that has not spread to the lymph nodes.

A radiation therapy schedule typically consists of a specific number of treatments over a set period. Radiation therapy can often help lower the risk of recurrence of breast cancer. In fact, with modern radiation therapy, in many instances survival is the same as with lumpectomy or mastectomy. 

High Dose Rate Therapy uses one small radioactive source to deliver radiation via small catheters or tubes inserted into the patient’s body by the surgeon or radiation oncologist. The treatment is done in an outpatient setting and generally without anesthesia. The tubes stay in place only temporarily.

After the tubes are placed, a radioactive seed is inserted through the tubes into or near the tumor site and is removed at the end of the therapy session. This means that the seed is not left in the body, as in traditional internal brachytherapy.

After the treatment series, the device and tubes are removed. HDRT is temporary, and when the tubes are removed, no radioactivity remains in the body.

High dose cancer radiation therapy allows precise control over the delivered amount of radiation and limits the exposure of surrounding healthy tissue. This treatment can be completed in a short series of outpatient visits. 

Possible Short-Term Side Effects of High-Dose Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer radiation can lead to temporary:

  • Dryness, skin irritation, and breast color changes
  • Breast swelling caused by fluid build-up (lymphedema)
  • Breast soreness

To minimize skin irritation of the breast, a specialist may recommend that the patient try to go without wearing a bra whenever possible. If it isn’t possible, wear a soft cotton bra without any wires.

Possible Long-Term Breast Changes Due to High-Dose Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

Radiation therapy can also sometimes cause long-term changes in the breast. The skin over the lumpectomy site may get a bit darker, become more or less sensitive and feel firmer and thicker than before the treatment.

More than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us at 850-610-3743, ask us a question, or consult with us to get a second opinion, so you, too, can experience the difference.