NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Breast Cancer – Locally Advanced (STAGE III)
Side effects from radiation therapy differ among
women. Factors like radiation dose and length of
treatment play a role. Side effects are cumulative.
This means they build up slowly and are worse at the
end of treatment. Your doctor will check on you every
week during treatment. He or she will review skin
care, medicines, and other options to help you feel
Acute effects are those that happen during or shortly
after the end of radiation. Acute effects will generally
improve after treatment. Fatigue is an acute effect.
Soreness at the treatment site and a sore throat are
other acute effects. However, radiation is usually not
painful. Skin changes are expected acute effects.
Often, women describe skin changes as like a
sunburn. Unlike a sunburn, skin changes build up
slowly during treatment. Your skin may become red,
irritated, and dry. It may also itch, darken, peel, and
sometimes crack open. Skin in regions of friction or
rubbing is prone to cracking open.
Late effects are those that happen after treatment.
They are related to scar tissue and do not go away.
Late effects include skin firmness or tightness. The
shape or texture of your breast may change. Scarring
can occur in the ribs. Likewise, inflammation and
scarring can occur in the lungs or heart, most often
without symptoms. There can also be swelling within
your arm (lymphedema).
Not all the side effects of radiation have been listed
here. Please ask your treatment team for a complete
list of side effects. If a side effect bothers you, tell
your treatment team. There may be ways to help you
Nearly all stage III breast cancers will be
treated with radiation therapy. It is used to
prevent the cancer from returning at the
Radiation uses high-energy x-rays to damage
External beam radiation therapy is the most
common method used to treat breast cancer.
Radiation may cause side effects during, right
after, or awhile after treatment.