How long does Radiotherapy keep working?

Hi All

Does anyone know how long radiotherapy keeps on working in the body after the treatment has stopped? I finished 15 sessions at the end of August but my breast is still quite tender & uncomfortable at times. I do have a small area of fluid but that is gradually going & I dont think it is contributing to the tenderness.

I’d also like to thank so many of you for your posts which are so helpful & supportive


Hi Silvasalva,

Are you still seeing any health professionals at your hospital? I certainly think it is worth mentioning the fluid to your breast nurse. It may be a seroma which is simply a collection of fluid which will go away on its own in time or, if it is very uncomfortable they may drain it.

Breast tissue does change after radiotherapy - getting firmer (and perkier!). Still, if you are worried about anything do ask the nurse or your GP.

Good luck.

Hi Alex

Thank you for your response. I did have the seroma aspirated a couple of months ago & I have had it checked out again - as its not a very large area I’ve been told it will dissapear in time (??) so I don’t feel I need another needle stuck in me!!! I really just wondered how long the radiotherapy keeps working in your system

Mr Rad Onc said the radiation only lingers for a few days, altho the recovery will obviously take longer and I read it can take a year for any changes in the breast to appear. I would ask your onc or bcn about the tenderness as mentioned in another post.

Hope it improves soon.


Hi I finished my rads at the end of November and was told to expect it to still be working for another couple of weeks. During this time I found my skin changed colour and my nipple became crusty and most of all I felt very tired. Now three months on I am still expirencing breast pain and I have to pace my activities. I find the pain is more noticeable if I have done more than usual. I have an oncology appointment tomorrow so I will certainly be mentioning the tiredness and the pain.

Chris x

hi - i had my first review during my rad treatment today and was told that rads go on working for several weeks after completion and that you can feel more tired after they have finished than you do when they are actually being given.

take care

gill x

That’s interesting as I was told by breast care nurse that it continues working for several months!!

I have found that a seroma can be quite tender particularly after it has been drained. I have a very small one that like you I don’t want drained and don’t think they would but it’s definitely a bit more tender in that area. If you think about it, it will be causing a bit of pressure. It also means that the healing process is still going on and not complete.

take care
Elinda x

months after rads finished I was still getting shooting pains and rib pain but does seem to have settled now. I only had lumpectomy and snb and 15 rads but I did have a seroma and seemingly that is what put me at risk of developing lymphoedema,I have now found out, however when I went to see gp with sore boob he told me that you diddn’t get lymphoedma in the breast and I wasn’t at risk as I hadn’t a full clearance and said I had mastitis ! Silly old codger ! Next time I see him I will make sure he gets a slap from my hideous lymphoedema sleeve …

If you are at all worried please get in touch with your bcn with all your symptoms,sorry but I rather get on my high horse re lymphoedema as not every medical person knows enough about it or seems to take it very seriously. Good luck.

Sandra x

hi everyone i just want to say that im 17 months down the line from having 5 weeks of rads and my breast is still hurting me when i saw my surgeon last year he told me that he wasnt too concerned with the pain (what does he know hes not the one having it)my yearl mammo showed that i have micro calcifications which were present from the start and that it was a ‘‘pleasing result’’ but i wasnt convinced maybe im paranoid i dont know but when i had my yearly appointment with my onc i went with a list of problems and one was the pain im experiencing she had a feel and can feel a thickening which says could be from the rads but has sent me for another mammo and ultra sound now ive been sent for an mri which is on thursday and im so bloody scared that its returned as the radiologist said that they will put the pictures together and if theres anything there then i will be sent for this mri im in turmoil now with the not knowing. Has anyone else experienced the same thing

Jackie x

Hello all,I had 15 rads after chemo & MX last summer and the onc said; the hardest part of rads is finding a place on the car park. HUH! Anyone just starting rads,stop reading NOW. At the end of the 15 sessions,I thought Id got off lightly,not a great deal of redness or tiredness,not so lucky. Two weeks later,I looked like someone in the last stages of leprosy,not painful but chunks of burnt skin dropping off. However on applying some cream from the G.P.the burns soon healed but needless to say I really fell by the wayside as regards doing my stretching exercises and my scarline is very tight, in fact it feels as though its stuck to my rib. My digestion has never been the same either,I feel quite poorly if I dont eat the minute I get hungry,I get heartburn & indigestion frequently which I didnt get before,my shoulder stiffened up and I am troubled with a lot of nerve pain. When I was in hospital after my MX,I was taking 500mg anti-inflammatories,now if I take even a 200mg,I vomit almost immediately.If I was unlucky enough to need more treatment in the future,I would prefer another course of chemo than more rads,a lady who I befriended in hospital said the same.
My hubby said I shouldnt tell people any of this but Im glad to hear that I wasnt the only one to have a bad reaction. On that happy note,Ill wish everyone good luck and lots of love,
Mags x

Thanks Mags. I just had my first today…lol
Actually I would rather hear what can happen and be prepared than to have blinkers on and freak out if it does happen to me, so keep em coming.x

Hi Girls,

I had radiotherapy during Sept last year and I never had one burn, just slightly red and itchy…I think I got off very lightly. In Dec my Boob started hurting and my arm is a lot stiffer…My scar is tight and I have tenderness and shooting pains in the breast…I have my first mammo tomorrow, dreading it due to tender boob! will mention tenderness but think it’s probably radiotherapy…

Fiona xxxx

Hi all,
Had my radiotherapy last June/July - redness, itchy, spotty…is what I remember, and, for a good two weeks afterwards, increasing discomfort in the crease under the boob. To the point that I thought skin was going to seriously split, but it never quite did.

And tired, very tired. I only had a 10-15 minute drive to hospital, and was almost always on my way back home within 15 mins of appt time. So, can’t blame journey…it was that couple of minutes of zapping that whacked me for six! I also had bad headaches, which improved when I drank more water, it felt like, and responded like, a “dehydration headache”.

Had my first annual mammo last month, and did expect the radiotherapy boob to hurt++++++, but it wasn’t too bad. The surgeon had a student with him during my consultation, and he pointed out to her that my zapped boob was harder/firmer than the other, and said that was to be expected.

Woody/Mags - indegestion and/or vomiting on anti- inflammatories - that is probably a sign that your stomach lining is reacting to the anti-inflam drugs (sometimes called NSAIDs - non-steroidal anti inflammitory drugs) Let your GP know you have this problem, they should prescribe a class of drugs know as “PPIs” (proton pump inhibitors - drug names such as omeprazole, lansaprazole…others are available…but all end in …azole) This group of drugs stops the stomach producing too much acid, and really should always be given with prescriptions of anti-inflammatories. Please PM me if you want more imformation.

Good luck, all, heading into this phase of treatment…it’s doable!

Lizzie xx

hi there, Like Sandra my ribs were sore for months afterwards. I felt very ill after my 25 sessions of rads, but that was to do with the stress of actually being on the couch with arms over my head. It was a very vulnerable position and I had a panic attack nearly every time. I had suffered abuse as a child and that particular position, just set it all off again.
So psychologically it was very tough for me

Like Chris, I was told the rads keep working for about two weeks. I didn’t have much in the way of skin problems, just pink and itchy, and a firmness inside. I asked my oncologist whether it meant it was working as well and she said it was nothing to do with skin reaction and that smaller-breasted women, like me, tend to have fewer problems.

Ann x

To LMxxxx
I see that you have already had your first annual mammogram.
You’ve written that you had your radiotherapy in June/July 2009, I also had mine in July, I had my operation in April (24th) and my cancer was found in March.
I was wondering which date they go by for your first mammogram after the discovery of breast cancer.
Or isn’t it set to anything?
ps I’m not sure how long the radiotherapy keeps working, I got totally messed up under my boob and had two infections.
My local nurse at the doctors didn’t seem to know what to give me to make me more comfortable when wearing a bra except for more medication. Think I had two weeks of anti-biotics !!!

Hi Whirlwind - my first mammo was as near my diagnosis anniversity as anything, that seems to be what they take the date from,

Thanks for the prompt reply - thats what I like about this site.
Everyone has or is going through the same thing as yourself.(Unfortunately). But in another way its really handy for advice.

If they go by the diagnosis then it will be mid to late March for me.
Do they let you know by letter and what sort of notice do they give you.
I don’t drive and so have to arrange lifts to Hosp. with various persons.
Don’t think they would grant me hospital transport like I had for the Radio Therapy.

Hi Whirlwind my mammo and appoinment with surgeon for annual check was made practically to the day of when I got my results 10 days post op. Was all set for it being today but got a letter puting it off for 3 weeks ! AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH ! If you are having trouble with your skin post rads I would be more inclined to get in touch with your rads dept than gp, when I went to mine she didn’t have a clue and I was the one suggesting to her things that had worked for people on here, ie special cream with silver in and mepilex (sp)dressings. In my case it certainly got worse before it got better,but it certainly is fine and dandy now.Good luck with your recovery.

Sandra x

Hi Sandra,
Remember chatting to you last year.
Its been a while since on here but I always know it is there if I need to ask questions.
So you were expecting your mammogram 10 days after your op. I had replied back to LMxxxx I got mixed up over diagnosis to mean as the biopsy date - well a week after that. It will probably be early May, I can’t remember when I went to the hosp. for results, you would have thought it would have been a permanent memory. My WLE was only 8mm though and there was nothing in the lymphnodes.
No, my boob has healed up fine, although underwired bras seem slightly uncomfortable to wear especially if they have the side supports in.
When my boob had the infection, I, like you, was reading all the advice. In fact, had to ring the breast care nurses up at my Hosp. to ring my Doctors Surgery Nurse and still they got the wrong pads. Personally I don’t think they bothered because of the price and my local chemists weren’t much cop, hardly had any of it in stock!!!
The only good thing to come out of it all is free prescriptions and as I suffer with Rheumatoid Arthritis I have loads of tablets for that.
Are you on the Tamoxifen tablets? - last year I remember reading that one of the brands was a bit better for you regarding side effects.
With the last two days weather I am feeling a bit more cheerful. I think the snow and ice can certainly get you down. I don’t have very good feet due to the R.A. and am due to have an op. in April thats why I need to know when I am likely to get a letter re: mammogram.
I was going to the hosp. for a physio apptmt today but they have rang and cancelled it - I may have had time on my hands to ask someone. More worried about the foot operation than the op. last year.
Do you still come on here regularly? I used to and probably will still dip in and out over the months.
Thanks again for the prompt reply.