Managing the Side Effects of Breast Brachytherapy

While it may sound too good to be true, for many breast cancer patients, a tiny radioactive source is one of the best tools for preserving healthy tissue during and after treatment.

Brachytherapy delivers radiation directly to cancer cells inside the breast. Treatment typically includes placing a small radioactive seed, generally the size and shape of a grain of rice, into a device in the surgery location after removal of a breast lump. This method limits the side effects of radiation to healthy tissue when treated this way in select patients.

For many patients, putting the psychological and physical trauma of treatment behind them is of vital importance. For this reason, the reduced disruption in activities of daily living and shorter treatment schedules of brachytherapy make it an attractive option.

The tissue-sparing effect achieved with brachytherapy helps to reduce the severity and likelihood of side effects, which leads to good cosmetic outcomes and overall improved patient satisfaction.

Possible Side Effects of Breast Brachytherapy

Please note that patients respond to treatments differently, and one may or may not experience side effects. Some women do not feel any significant side effects from the therapy or discomfort during removal of the device. Studies of breast cancer patients undergoing brachytherapy report less fatigue following this treatment when compared to whole breast radiation.

Short-Term Side Effects of Breast Brachytherapy

Some patients will feel fatigued after the brachytherapy treatment and may want to rest for a few days. After receiving the therapy, the patient may feel some soreness or notice mild redness around the treated area. The breast may also look slightly swollen, and the color of the skin may slightly change. These breast tissue changes are usually mild and will go away a few days or weeks after the treatment. There is also a small risk of infection caused by the placement of the catheters. Your team of specialists will determine your risk level and can give you antibiotics before the treatment, if they feel it is warranted.

How to Fight the Side Effects of Breast Brachytherapy

Radiation therapy or cancer itself may cause side effects. Your body is working hard to heal. To help with them:

  1. Try to keep up your regular exercise routine or adjust it if you start to feel tired.
  2. Finish only the tasks that you can and let others help you with the rest. Take time to rest.
  3. Notice how you feel each day. Let your nurse or doctor know if you notice changes in your energy level.
  4. Try eating five to six smaller meals every day and drink plenty of water (about eight cups).
  5. Your doctor or nurse can suggest treatments for issues that may be causing your fatigue, including anemia, depression or trouble sleeping.

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.