Are the Side Effects of Radiotherapy worth it ??

Hi there. Following a recall and biopsies in September 2016 subsequent to a routine mammogram, I was diagnosed with Early Stage Grade 5 In-Situ Ductal Carcinoma in my right breast as a result of which I underwent surgery for a Wire Guided Wide Local Excision in October 2016, and a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy in November 2016.  I was advised that the Lumpectomy showed tiny traces of invasion hence the SLNB, but that no cancer was found in the Lymph Nodes.  I was therefore advised that all the cancer had been successfully surgically removed but as a precaution against recurrence, a course of Radiotherapy was recommended.  I therefore commenced radiotherapy treatment during late February 2017 and at the time of writing have now received 9 treatments of the 20 planned.  All was going well with nothing really to report until this weekend when I have experienced excruciating pain in my affected breast.  This seems to be centred around the nipple and the underside of the breast, but does wax and wane somewhat, although I can hardly bear anything to touch the breast. The pain appears to respond reasonably well to paracetamol so some sleep is possible. The skin under arm and around the site of the previous surgical treatment is beginning to sprout pus filled pimples.  As I’ve been repeatedly reassured that the radiotherapy is a precautionary treatment to try to prevent recurrence (the actual identified cancer having been successfully removed during surgery), I am seriously questioning whether to stop receiving this treatment now, rather than continuing the full course and risk these symptoms becoming worse.  My treatment is currently suspended for 2 days due to routine servicing of the equipment, so I am not due back to the hospital until Wednesday, which will constitute treatment number 10 - i.e. half way through.  I don’t know what to do, but the pain and possible skin breakdown which now seems to be starting, is quite alarming and I am seriously wondering whether it’s worth making things worse.  It seems that my body is very clearly telling me that it has had enough, and every instinct in me tells me to stop now before things get worse.  But I’m a coward, and hence am really struggling between these very strong instincts, and the brain which tells me I should put all my faith in the medics.  Help please!!


I would ask to speak to the team leader at the radiotherapy unit and then hopefully they can refer you urgently to speak to a radiotherapy consultant.

Best wishes x

Hi … I am 16/19 and also have pain around the nipple and below affected breast … very pink all over but not as bad as you seem to be suffering badly!  I would also suggest asking to see Senior Radiographer/Oncologist … they will be happy to examine and reassure/treat you.  Hope it is resolved soon xx

Hi BlackCountrySue, i remember radiographers saying side effects and skin breakdown occur 10 days in. I didnt have a reaction like you but others did. When you go on wed ask for a review and see what the reviewer says - you could even call and ask to be seen tomorrow. Have you been moisturising and have you been drinking plenty of water? I do hope they can get you sorted with dressings and painkillers. Sending you a hug xxx

Hello Sue, hope you have managed to get some help with your problem. Are you having your radiotherapy at New Cross? That’s where I am having mine.


I have only just started (2/23 was today), and have been worrying about skin problems myself. I nearly chickened out of radiotherapy, but decided to go ahead because it does significantly reduce the risk of recurrence if you have had a lumpectomy.


Thanks Ali49 for tip on when to look out for skin problems - end of next week will be crunch time for me. In the meantime I am rinsing chest with cold water, dabbing dry gently and applying lots of moisturiser and hoping for the best.


I can understand how you feel Sue, and will probably feel the same way as you if I get a similar reaction further down the line. You should definitely see somebody about it before resuming, and I hope they are able to help you. Wishing you all the best, let us know how you get on.



i hope you have managed to speak to a review radiographer for a check up. There are creams and dressings you can have to help you through this treatment - I had both and it did really help. You must get 2 litres of fluid  in you everyday, and moisturise 3 times a day. It all really helps. E45 is great, but if you have sun burn looking areas, aloe Vera gel 99% or 100% (you can get in Holland and Barrett) kept in the fridge is so soothing. 

Dont give up without speaking to someone about how you are feeling. I really suffered through rads and still am four months after finishing 20 sessions but I am glad I did it - although I have had enough of the old crusty nipple now!! I was of the mindset that I would do everything I could to kick BC backside and to give me decades of a healthy life ahead. 

If anyone says rads is easy, they are either very fortunate or lying, however I’m sure I read somewhere that it reduces the chance of reoccurance by 40% and to me those odds are worth it. 

The side effects peak 10 - 14 days AFTER rads is finished so if you do get creams and dressings, make sure you get enough to keep you going for a few weeks afterwards. 

Feel free to ask what ever you like - it’s why we are all here!! 


Hello again Sue - how are you getting on? If you are still suffering there is some useful information and advice on the March 2017 thread from others who have had skin problems, who are managing to keep going. Although I am OK at the moment, I don’t expect to escape. You will probably have already made your decision by now, but I hope you managed to get further help with the pain and skin problems, and that you were properly briefed before you decided what to do.p