This Navigator topic is your stepping stone to finding quality, current information on radiotherapy treatment for early breast cancer, from a range of reputable sources. It is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather to provide a starting point to information seeking.
It is aimed at women who have been diagnosed with early breast cancer and are faced with making decisions about treatment options including radiotherapy. Having access to quality information to help you make informed decisions is vital.
Aim of radiotherapy
The aim of radiotherapy is to destroy breast cancer cells that may have remained after breast surgery. Radiotherapy uses radiation to kill or damage cancer cells and stop them from growing and multiplying.
Although radiation can also damage normal cells, these cells are better able to self-repair. This is one reason why radiotherapy is given in small doses over several weeks. The radiotherapy damage to the breast cancer cells accumulates with each treatment and kills the cancer cells, while healthy cells recover between each treatment and are maintained.
After a wide local excision (WLE) radiotherapy is usually recommended. After mastectomy, radiotherapy may also be recommended along with other treatments like chemotherapy and endocrine (hormonal treatments). Your treatment plan will depend on your individual diagnosis and circumstances.
Understanding potential side effects
Radiotherapy is an effective treatment for many cancer types. All treatments have some side effects and these vary from person to person. However side effects for radiotherapy for breast cancer are fairly predictable.
Some people can find the thought of having radiotherapy frightening. Talking over your concerns about side effects with your radiation oncologist, breast care nurse or other member of your treating team will help you understand radiotherapy and how to manage side effects if they arise. There are resources in this Navigator topic to help you understand how radiotherapy works, potential side effects and strategies to help you manage.
Seeking advice and support
The time of diagnosis of breast cancer can feel overwhelming. You may be given a lot of information about your treatment options which may be difficult to process all at once. To help you:
The purpose of this navigator is to guide you to information about radiotherapy for early breast cancer that will help inform your decision-making. It does not constitute an endorsement of the information contained in the resources. This information is not meant to be a replacement for consultations with and recommendations from your treating team, but rather to provide a starting point to information seeking. If you are unsure about anything, you should always consult your health professional team.
When making decisions about radiotherapy treatment, you may wish to consider the following questions. These questions may help you decide about the treatment of your breast cancer. You might want the answers to some of the questions straight away, while some may become important later on. You can either ask these questions directly to your oncologist or other medical specialist, or use them as a guide to put together your own questions.
These listings provide links to the websites of organisations with a particular focus on radiotherapy. The link will direct you to the home page where you can search their site independently. The information on these websites includes evidence-based information by organisations that may subscribe to reputable online Health information standard such as the HONCode.
A link to the Victorian Governments list of public and private radiotherapy services in Victoria. Click on 'Radiotherapy locations'.
This list features links to key pieces of evidence-based information about radiotherapy for early breast cancer, and includes videos, downloadable fact sheets, pamphlets, or PDFs and web pages.
This presentation explores the use for radiotherapy including the benefits for the treatment of DCIS and early breast cancer. They explain current and new ways of giving radiotherapy, the planning process, side effects, follow up care and the costs. A woman who has had breast cancer describes her experience during the Covid-19 pandemic. You will need to register to view the recording.
Kez Brown, a Radiation Therapist, and Naina Dhana, a Clinical Educator from Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, discuss techniques used to deliver radiotherapy, the benefits and side effects of this treatment, as well as current and emerging trends. Hosted by Fiona McRae.
A web page explaining the purpose of radiotherapy for early breast cancer. Includes links to information on timing, travel, side effects and skin care.
Formerly the My Journey Kit, this tool is now online. Sign up to access information that can be tailored to your own situation. Find information on radiotherapy under the Treatment section.
This web page explains how radiotherapy works, and what to expect from treatment. Buttons at the top of the page link to the booklet 'Understanding radiation therapy' listed below.
Episode 4 of this podcast explains how radiation therapy works, and the roles of the Radiation Oncologist and Radiation Therapist.
In this webinar recording Dr Mario Guerrieri, a Radiation Oncologist, discusses the different techniques used to deliver radiotherapy (external beam and internal radiotherapy or brachytherapy), the benefits and side effects, as well as the current and emerging trends for its application in the treatment of cancer. November 2015.
Information on breast cancer in general, with specialist information on radiation therapy treatment and side effects. Radiation Oncology is the Faculty of Radiation Oncology, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists.
Web page by Breast Cancer Now, in the UK, with comprehensive information about radiotherapy treatment for early breast cancer including why it may not be an option; how it is given; treatment planning and side effects.
A web page on radiotherapy on the US based Breast Cancer.Org’s website that looks at how radiotherapy works; when its appropriate; types of radiation and managing side effects.
A page about Radiotherapy on the UK’s National Health Service’s website which features a five minute video on radiotherapy (scroll down the page to find video). The video has footage of a patient undergoing radiotherapy treatment, and an interview with an oncologist who describes the process, benefits and potential side effects.
Simple explanation of radiotherapy: how it works, how to prepare and what to expect.
Presented in collaboration with the Heart Foundation, Professor Liza Thomas outlines the long-term impacts of cancer treatment on heart health. With Julie Anne Mitchell. Hosted by Kellie Holland.
Elizabeth Pearson, Occupational Therapist PhD, discusses the evidence for managing cancer-related fatigue. 2018
In episode 3 of the podcast 'The thing about cancer', Julie McCrossin and Dr Haryana Dhillon discuss ways of managing cancer fatigue.
A page on the BCNA website about radiotherapy, which includes tips for preparing for and coping with radiotherapy.
This is a list of hard copy resources such as books and DVDs that are not readily available online.
Written by an Australian Oncologist, this book includes a comprehensive chapter on radiotherapy and developing treatment plans. Available in the Counterpart Resource Centre. Not for loan.
Boyages J, Boycare Publishing, 2010
This list features websites that containing personal stories both written and in video format, and includes blogs and online forums. The information contained in these links reflects the personal experiences of individuals and does not constitute evidence-based research or information.
Counterpart (formerly BreaCan) is a unique free information and support service for Victorian women living with breast or gynaecological cancers. Women can connect and speak with trained peer support volunteers who have experienced cancer themselves or cared for someone who has.
Breast surgeon Liz O'Riordan recounts her experience with radiotherapy and its effects on her.
Colourfully illustrated explanation of radiotherapy from the blog of French Australian woman Magalie Lameloise, who was diagnosed when she was 33 years old with a young baby. Published as a PDF ebook 'And then I had breast cancer'.
This presentation explores the use for radiotherapy including the benefits for the treatment of DCIS and early breast cancer. They explain current and new ways of giving radiotherapy, the planning process, side effects, follow up care and the costs. A woman who has had breast cancer describes her experience during the COVID pandemic. You will need to register to view the recording.
An online network of Australia’s peak national consumer organisation Breast Cancer Network Australia, for those affected by breast cancer. It includes discussions by individuals and groups of people in similar situations including those who have experienced radiotherapy.
An Australian online forum for those affected by the breast cancer, to share in a range of different topics. Contains a number of discussions about radiotherapy. Search 'radiotherapy'.
The Cancer Council online support network for people living with cancer. It includes blogs, forums and links to support groups.
An online Forum on the US website Breast Cancer.Org entitled 'Radiation Therapy – Before, During and After Breast Cancer'.
Know a personal story we could include? Give feedback below.