After Your Breast Cancer Consultation in Radiation Oncology
At this point, you may be feeling overwhelmed, scared, confused, and a wide range of other
emotions. We hope that your visit helped relieve some of those fears. You will next need to
decide which type of breast radiation treatment is right for you.
The purpose of radiation is to kill any of the cancer cells that remain after surgery. This
decreases the chance of breast cancer returning. Below are the two methods of treating breast
cancer using radiation. These methods are equally effective for women with certain types of
early stage breast cancer.
How it is given Treatment Schedule Side Effects Benefits
High intensity x-rays
are directed at the
Once a day (15
for 4 to 6 weeks.
placed into the breast
at the site where the
tumor was located.
Treatment is given
with a radioactive
seed that travels into
the catheter(s) for a
Twice a day (45 – 60
for 5 days.
Women who will receive any type of breast radiation require a CT scan done in Radiation
Oncology. This CT scan gives us more information about the size/shape of your breast and
surgical site. It can be very helpful in figuring out the best treatment option for a specific
woman. If breast brachytherapy is an option for you, the CT scan shows us which type of
catheter would be best. If you will be receiving external beam radiation therapy, the CT scan
shows us which type of radiation machine (linear accelerator) would be best.
A CT scan is a type of x-ray. A CT scan done in Radiation Oncology is used for treatment
planning. This type of CT is looked at only by persons within the department. This type of scan
is not used to diagnose disease. Some women also receive an MRI scan in Radiation Oncology
to help plan their radiation.
Before the scan:
If you are pregnant, or think you might be pregnant, tell us before the scan is done. This is to
reduce the risk to your baby of being exposed to radiation. Your doctor will order a urine
pregnancy test if you are of childbearing age (10-55 years of age) or have not gone through
Let us know if being in confined spaces is difficult for you. We can give you medicine to help
you relax. If you take this type of medicine for the scan, you will need someone to drive you
home. You should not drive or use dangerous equipment for 24 hours.
You may eat and drink liquids up until the scan. You will not have an IV placed or receive any
type of contrast.
We will ask you to remove some of your clothing for the scan. For women who are having a CT
scan to plan breast radiation, this includes clothing that covers the upper body (i.e. shirt and bra).
You will be given a hospital gown, robe, towel, and/or blanket to use.
A photo of your face will be taken for your chart for identification purposes.
During the scan:
You will lie on a narrow table. The
table will move in and out of the
opening of the scanner. It takes
about 30 minutes to complete the
scan. A lot of this time is used for
getting you into the right position.
The scan itself takes only a few
minutes. During the scan, you will be
alone in the room. We will be able
to see you through a window. We
will be able to hear you through a
speaker. You will need to hold still
during the scan. Most often you will be on your back for the scan, however, you may be asked
to lie on your stomach (called “prone” breast radiation). You may be asked to have your arms
resting above your head. You may also be asked to “take a deep breath and hold” during part of
the scan. In most cases there is no pain or discomfort during the scan. If you need something, or
have any problems during the scan, just speak up as we will be listening for any concerns.
The radiation therapist will make temporary ink marks and/or permanent tattoos on your skin.
Please do not remove any marks at home, unless you are told that you may do so. Women who
will receive breast brachytherapy do not need tattoos, so the temporary ink marks can be washed
off after your appointment. Women who will receive external beam radiotherapy have 4 small
tattoos done at the CT appointment. 1-2 more tattoos are done at the first treatment appointment.
These tattoos look like tiny black freckles. Radiation tattoos are permanent. We use them
because they work better than temporary skin marks to get you in the correct position for
external beam treatment each day. Please tell your doctor or radiation therapist if you have
questions or concerns about tattoos.
After the scan:
External Beam Radiation – After the CT scan, we will start working on your radiation plan. A
radiation therapist will call you within the next few days to schedule your first treatment
Breast Brachytherapy – After the CT scan, you will meet with your doctor to determine if you
are a candidate for breast brachytherapy. You will also meet with a nurse to receive education
about the procedure. We will schedule your catheter placement and treatments.
If you have any questions or concerns, please call Radiation Oncology at (608) 263-8500
between the hours of 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor.
This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because
each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team
when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©3/20016. University of
Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing.