Breast cancer  - Radiation

Breast cancer - Radiation

Radiation Therapy (also called radiotherapy) is the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells.

Radiation Therapy is used after surgery (particularly breast-sparing surgery) to kill any cancer cells that remain in the area. It may also be used before surgery (alone or in combination with chemotherapy or hormonal therapy) to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation Therapy may also be used if the cancer has spread to the bone or brain or to destroy the ovaries and stop oestrogen production (which feeds the cancer cells in some cases of breast cancer).
Radiation Therapy can be given externally or internally, or both. External Radiation Therapy involves Radiation being directed at the breast by a machine. This is performed at a hospital or clinic, generally 5 days a week for several weeks. Implant Radiation involves placing plastic tubes that contain radioactive material directly in the breast. The person receiving treatment stays in the hospital and the implants remain in place for several days and are removed before the patient goes home.

DIET HINTS
Eat a balanced diet. This will enable the body to feel as energetic as possible and improve the body's ability to heal and to fight infection, tolerate the Radiotherapy with fewer side effects and keep body weight at an appropriate level. The following steps are recommended:
1. Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods.
2. Eat plenty of breads and cereals (preferably wholegrain), vegetables (including legumes such as those found in the pea and bean families) and fruits.
3. Eat a diet low in fat and, in particular, low in saturated fat.
4. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake.
5. Eat only a moderate amount of sugars and foods containing added sugars.
6. Choose low salt foods and use salt sparingly.

Include foods rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, which possess powerful antioxidant properties. There is evidence to suggest that these vitamins reduce certain side effects of Radiotherapy.
Radiation Therapy can increase a person's caloric requirements due to the high-energy repair processes that go on in the body following treatment. Liquid nutritional supplements can be used by patients receiving Radiation to supplement protein and calorie intake between meals.

Radiotherapy can cause a 'metallic' taste in the mouth because it affects taste buds. Try marinating meats for better flavour. Cold foods may be more palatable than hot. Use herbs such as thyme, tarragon, mint and basil for added flavour. Try adding sauces such as apple sauce, yoghurt dressings and salad dressings to make food easier to chew.

SIDE EFFECTS
Red or blistered skin, rib fractures (in less than 5% of patients), dry cough and shortness of breath during physical activity (for up to about 6 weeks), mild lung inflammation in 10 to 20% of patients 3-6 months after completing Radiation Therapy.

VITAMINS/MINERALS/HERBS
Always consult your Doctor for advice on dosages and interactions before taking any vitamins, minerals or herbs.
Growth-promoting vitamins and minerals, such as the B vitamins, folic acid and zinc, should not be taken during cancer treatment except under strict medical supervision.

ORGANISATIONS & SUPPORT GROUPS
Breast Cancer India (www.breastcancerindia.net)

PHARMACIST'S ADVICE
Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice.
1. Your Pharmacy stocks a range of drink supplements available that can provide nutritional support for patients receiving Radiation Therapy.
2. Always consult your Doctor for advice on dosages and interactions before taking any vitamins, minerals or herbs. Growth-promoting vitamins and minerals, such as the B vitamins, folic acid and zinc, should not be taken during cancer treatment except under strict medical supervision.
3. If the diet is inadequate, consider the supplements listed elsewhere in this topic and ask your Pharmacist for advice.