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Radiotherapy

a sign saying radiotherapy this way

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.


Last Updated: 25 February, 2020 1:01 pm

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.

  • How does radiotherapy work?
  • Can radiotherapy be as good as an operation to stop cancer developing?
  • Why is chemotherapy sometimes given together with radiotherapy?
  • Why is radiotherapy given to some patients and not others?
  • Will having radiotherapy have any impact on my choices for breast reconstruction?
  • What is likely to happen if I don't have radiotherapy?
  • Does radiotherapy hurt?
  • How long does each session take?
  • How many sessions will there be?
  • How often do I need to attend for treatment?
  • Why does a radiotherapy course take so long?
  • Who do I talk to if I have questions in between my radiotherapy treatments?
  • Will there be any side effects?
  • Will radiotherapy make me feel tired?
  • Can radiatiotherapy cause cancer?
  • Will I be radioactive? Can I play with my children?
  • Will I lose my hair?
  • How long will the side effects last?
  • Who can I talk to about ways of managing the side effects?
  • Can I do all the things I normally do while on treatment? Is there anything I won’t be able to do?

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.

Victorian Government Radiotherapy Services (AUS)

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.

Counterpart - Radiation therapy for breast cancer webinar 2020 (AUS)

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.

Cancer Australia - Radiotherapy - Breast Cancer 2019 (AUS)

A web page explaining the purpose of radiotherapy for early breast cancer. Includes links to information on timing, travel, side effects and skin care.

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) - My Journey online tool 2018 (AUS)

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.

Cancer Council Victoria - Radiation Therapy 2019 (AUS)

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.

Radiation - Cancer Survivor Guide 2018 (AUS)

Episode 4 of this podcast explains how radiation therapy works, and the roles of the Radiation Oncologist and Radiation Therapist.

Cancer Council Australia - 'Understanding Radiation Therapy - A Guide for People with Cancer, their Families and Friends' booklet 2019 (AUS)

Click on the 'Download' or 'Order' buttons at the bottom of the page to get your copy of this booklet on radiotherapy treatment for cancer. It is not specific to breast cancer but it explains how radiotherapy works, different types of radiotherapy and managing side effects.

Counterpart - Radiotherapy webinar (AUS) 2015

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.

Radiation Oncology - 'Breast cancer' (AUS)

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.

Breast Cancer Now - 'Radiotherapy for Primary Breast Cancer' 2019 (UK)

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.

BreastCancer.org - Radiation Therapy 2019 (US)

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.

UK National Health Service - Radiotherapy 2017 (UK)

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.

Macmillan Cancer Support - Radiotherapy (UK)

Simple explanation of radiotherapy: how it works, how to prepare and what to expect.

Counterpart webinar - 'Cancer fatigue: What does the evidence say?' 2018 (VIC)

Elizabeth Pearson, Occupational Therapist PhD, discusses the evidence for managing cancer-related fatigue. 2018

Cancer Council NSW - Managing cancer fatigue 2017 (AUS)

In episode 3 of the podcast 'The thing about cancer', Julie McCrossin and Dr Haryana Dhillon discuss ways of managing cancer fatigue.

Breast Cancer Network Australia - Radiotherapy (AUS)

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 CDs that are not readily available online. They may be available for loan through Counterpart’s Resource Centre or may be sourced independently online or through book stores. You can access the Counterpart library online or call the Resource Centre directly on 1300 781 500.

Breast Cancer Taking Control (AUS)

Written by an Australian Oncologist, this book includes a comprehensive chapter on radiotherapy and developing treatment plans.

Boyages J, Boycare Publishing, 2010

View Details Online

Dr Susan Love's breast book (6th ed.) (US)

Susan Love’s updated book deals almost entirely with breast cancer. The section on treatments is very thorough and the explanation of radiotherapy is detailed and easy to understand. It also includes a chapter on making decisions regarding treatment that explains some of the important terms to understand about risk reduction.

Love, S M & Lindsey, K, Perseus Publishing, 2015

View Details Online

Chemotherapy and Radiation for Dummies (US)

Not breast cancer specific but comprehensive look at radiation therapy, its history and tips on preparing for it.

Lyss A P et al, Wiley Publishing, 2005

View Details Online

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 (AUS)

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 with Breast Cancer - The Triathlon is Over! (UK)

Breast surgeon Liz O'Riordan recounts her experience with radiotherapy and its effects on her.

Mag's Blog - Radiotherapy (AUS)

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'.

Breast Cancer Network Australia - Online network (AUS)

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.

Aussie Breast Cancer Forum - Radiotherapy (AUS)

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.

Cancer Council - Online Community (AUS)

The Cancer Council online support network for people living with cancer. It includes blogs, forums and links to support groups.

Breastcancer.org - (US)

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.