Radiotherapy for breast cancer can be a bit of an ordeal.
For me, the worst moment after being told I had cancer was being told I would need chemotherapy and radiotherapy as treatment to fight the disease. Having been there I know its shocking and I felt I just simply would never cope with it all.
My treatment regime was to consist of four treatments of FEC chemo, four weeks of radiotherapy treatment then four treatments of Taxotere chemo. This would all take the best part of ten months.
Having survived the first part of the chemo ( just! ) I went into my radiotherapy a bit bruised and battered. The first thing that needed done was going to a simulator to have the very complicated process of marking out where your treatment would be. This is done with lasers and details of where your tumour or tumours were. Small tattoos are then done to mark out the treatment area. This enables the machine to be set up very quickly every day during treatment.
I mentally decided that for the four weeks of radiotherapy I would treat it like a job. It took 45 minutes or so to drive to the hospital and back every day. The Western General in Edinburgh where I had all my treatments has a fantastic set up for radiotherapy patients. There is a dedicated car park next to the unit and you are guaranteed a space or they will valet park your car. This was amazing and a big weight off my mind as your appointment only lasts five minutes and you have to be there in time as the machines are in use constantly.
The actual radiotherapy lasts a few minutes and is painless-quite relaxing really. Some people find the treatment very tiring. I didn’t, but I think if you’ve had chemo first then your perception of tiredness changes! The going to the hospital every day is a bit of a bind but use any mental trick to over come this.
After a few weeks of treatment the skin over the treated area can become very red and fragile. No soap or creams should be used as these can make your skin even more sensitive. This does clear up but it did cause discomfort for a few weeks. The skin on this area will always be more sensitive and sun should be avoided. It’s also worth mentioning not to forget the exit area – mine was on my back – where the radiotherapy exists your body during treatments.
Radiotherapy treatment, for me, was the least unpleasant of the treatments I went through. At the outset it seems daunting but really it’s not – honestly!
Marjory Ramsay was a nurse and is now a busy mum looking after her children and step children. She developed the symptoms of breast cancer in 2006 and has undergone extensive treatment since then. Apart from describing her radiotherapy experiences she has also written about herceptin side effects
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