Radiation timing

Lawrence J. Solin, MD, FACR
Last Modified: April 21, 2002

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer and I have read where radiation treatment should commence within 3 to 4 weeks after a lumpectomy is performed. How critical is the 3 to 4 week window? If it is started can it be suspended for a week and then resumed? We have reservations to see Mickey and Minnie and her mental health is at stake.  

Answer

Lawrence J. Solin, MD, FACR, Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

The timing (interval) to start radiation needs to consider two issues. First, the patient needs to be healed from the surgery before starting radiation, and in general, most patients are healed by the second or third week after surgery. Second, radiation should be started reasonably soon thereafter to maximize the benefit of radiation, and in general, intervals of up to 7 or 8 weeks can be acceptable, depending on the individual patient circumstances.

Once radiation treatments are started, these should be given continuously without break, unless the patient is having a complication from the treatment. Treatment breaks, especially if prolonged, can reduce the effectiveness of radiation.

Most travel arrangements (e.g., airplane and hotel reservations) can be changed (or sometimes canceled) without penalty provided that these arrangements were made prior to the diagnosis of cancer. A letter from the responsible physician is generally sufficient for this purpose.


News
But recurrent tumors are more likely to be invasive, lowering overall survival rate

May 3, 2011 - Patients with ductal carcinoma in situ who undergo radiation therapy in addition to excision have a longer time to recurrence, but recurrent tumors are more likely to be invasive, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons, held from April 27 to May 1 in Washington, D.C.



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