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50

NCCN Guidelines for Patients

®

:

Breast Cancer – Locally Advanced (STAGE III)

Version 1.2017

Side effects

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

better.

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

feel better.

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Nearly all stage III breast cancers will be

treated with radiation therapy. It is used to

prevent the cancer from returning at the

treatment sites.

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Radiation uses high-energy x-rays to damage

cancer cells.

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External beam radiation therapy is the most

common method used to treat breast cancer.

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Radiation may cause side effects during, right

after, or awhile after treatment.

5

Radiation therapy

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