Radiation Timing after Chemotherapy

Last Modified: August 26, 2007


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My wife has completed breast cancer treatment, specifically surgery and chemotherapy. My question is, after chemotherapy, how soon should radiation therapy start? We got an appointment with the radiation oncologist, and the total time gap is almost 6 to 7weeks - is this ok?


Terry Styles, MD, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

I typically recommend that patients start radiation therapy 3-4 weeks after completing their chemotherapy. If the patient has an increased risk for local recurrence, such as positive resection margins or a very aggressive tumor type, (for example, inflammatory breast cancer), I may start the radiation sooner, or at least ensure that it does not go past the 3-4 weeks. For most other patients, early start of radiation is less critical, and clinical studies demonstrate no increased risk of recurrence as long as radiation treatment is started within 12 weeks of chemotherapy.