How are you getting on, Gaum?
I finished 15 sessions of radiotherapy this Wednes, 18 July. It was doable and the time went faster than I expected. There is a large bell in the radiology waiting area which patients ring three times after their final treatment; everyone claps and for just a few seconds you are a celebrity.
I had a WLE and axillary node clearance on the left side. My skin is very fair and osteoarthritis renders all my joints inclined to stiffness. So far, skin reactions to rads have been minimal - just redness but no soreness. I've kept well covered all the time, especially in the sun, and have applied generous amounts of Aveeno cream to the breast, armpit and the whole of my left arm, twice a day. It's been progressively more uncomfortable to lie on the couch, but the radiographers were very helpful in providing a small gel pad to pop between the arm rest and my left upper arm, which made quite a difference. They also helped me off the couch after the 15 mins were up; my joints seemed to freeze! Paracetamol and a very occasional 2mg Diazepam (on bad days) have helped.
It is such an individual thing. The radiographers have advised that side effects can continue to appear for another couple of weeks; most commonly, fatigue and skin reactions. Otherwise, health risks appear to be minimal.They were very willing to answer questions and took a kindly interest in my day-to-day progress.
Is your hospital one of the cancer specialists? In which case, their equipment is likely to be state-of-the-art and very reliable.
The advice I was given at the outset was that radiotherapy effectively sterilizes the breast. Without it there is a risk of recurrence in that breast of c. 35% in 10 years. Radiotherapy reduces that risk to 4 or 5% in c. 15 years.
All the best.
To be honest the time goes really quickly and before you know where you are it is finished. Mine was over Xmas and New Year 2016/2017 which extended it a bit to nearly 5 weeks, but it is a distant memory now.
Thanks for your reply - it's very reassuring. Also the tips about moisturising and taking hay fever tablets, which I take anyway, as I had hay fever for the first time in my life a couple of years ago and it makes my asthma worse.
Just hoping that this hideously hot weather in London (currently in the low 30s celsius) goes away by the time I have the radiotherapy, as it's really draining. A small price to pay in the overall scheme of things though.
All the best to you,
Thanks for your reply - it's very reassuring. I know I'm going to find the daily commute to the hospital a toil, but if I go ahead, I'll try to avoid the rush-hour crush. It's only for 3 weeks.
Many thanks - and wishing you well,
Thanks for your reply - it's very reassuring. I think I've made my mind up.
Wishing you well,
Thanks for the reply. It puts my mind at rest about the radiotherapy.
I wish you all the best,
Thanks for replying to my post. I am so sorry to hear of your predicament, which seems far more complex than mine, as I only have surgery and radiotherapy to worry about at the moment.
One suggestion - could you go to your GP and ask to see a heart consultant because of the decision you have to make? I saw one in a few months ago and had an ECG and echocardiogram and got my % chance of having heart problems in the next 10 years. That may help to make your decision.
I also read a report a few days ago that lumpectomy and radiotherapy was more successful in treating breast cancer than mastectomy, though that of course depends on the type of cancer you have. Normally I would say avoid searching the internet, but as long as you take everything with a pinch of salt, there's some useful info out there.
Wishing you all the best,
Many thanks Jo for taking the time to reply. I can't tell you how helpful it is to have some real life experience to go on. Also, as you are 3 years on, it's quite reassuring. Hope you have many years to come with your granddaughter.
All the best,
I'm now 4 weeks on from radiotherapy after a lumpectomy then further surgery for node removal from my armpit. I agree r/t was a bit underwhelming. I kept waiting for the scary things to kick in. I only had one day of fatigue and that was a warm day after a bad night's sleep and probably dehydrated. 30 mins nap soon sorted me out. The itching (take 1 a day hayfever tablet - brilliant), the warmth - not uncomfortable (aloe vera gel). I did moisturise, but no real deal. Skin and boob are fine now with really slightly darker skin on the treated area, which only I see.
I also quite enjoyed the r/t and drove myself to/from (60 mile round trip). Friends came a couple of times for company. I felt I was in charge for once and doing something positive. The most likely place for any cancer cells to remain is in the breast/armpit where they carefully aim the rays. You feel nothing.
My only side effect is a weak shoulder from holding the awkward position for the 15 mins or so. Keep doing the exercises right through.
Hope this helps. Nothing comes with a guarantee of course
Just wanted to add my experience with rads.
I had 20 sessions 15 regular and 5 boosters Dec 2016/Jan 2017. The worst part of it for me was the travelling back and forward every day for 5 weeks, having my life controlled by this one apt every day.
I had no hesitation in accepting having rads as my oncologist described it as the belts and braces of my treatment along with the tamoxifen I am taking for 10 years.
I am in a similar position to you. Recently I had breast surgery plus one round of chemo which made me so ill, due to underlying health issues, that I declined further treatments.
I am concerned that radiation therapy may do more harm than good in my case. Have tried to find more information about not having radiation treatment but have not had much luck. I have heard from other friends would have had no long term effects and those that have ongoing problems.
I am having targeted therapy and hormone therapy so wonder whether these are sufficient without radiation.
Although I don't have a history of heart disease, my family do, so that is also a concern. I know that the targetted therapy Herceptin can also cause heart problems, so that is an increased risk.
It's difficult to make decisions with so little information to go on, I spoke to my oncologist today but he could give me no further information and seemed to think me mad for not wanting to go ahead with radiation treatment.
From the comments on this forum regarding the effects of the treatment, I am inclined to think it might affect me adversely as I also suffer with long-term back and shoulder problems.
Does anyone have personal exprience of not undergoing radiotherapy I wonder?
In my experience Radiotherapy was absolutely fine, I worked right through choosing my appointments late afternoon as I finish work at 3. It takes only a few minutes and after 15 sessions I had nothing worse than a warm pink boob, soon settled down and certainly wasn't painful just hot. It can be tiring travelling too and from hospital every day for 3-4 weeks but the actual treatment isn't physically hard and it's totally painless to have.
I understand your worry about reacurrance and what would happen as you couldn't have Radiotherapy again that side but I chose to see it as doing all I could to prevent that happening by having the treatment reccomended to me initially , not worrying about what may happen but dealing with what was happening if you see what I mean.
Im now 3 years on and have been left with a pretty normal boob, it's slightly lumpier and a little tender when my granddaughter likes to climb on me but other than that I have no ill effects and there is no problem in day to day life. My ribs were a little tender for a while and would flare up every now and then but again nothing awful and mainly when I was reaching up but I've not had this for months now.
Of course it's your decision but there really is nothing to worry about from the practical side of radiotherapy, I was actually quite underwhelmed by how simple it was and had expected something far more dramatic!
All the best with coming to a decision and if there is anything else you want to know then please just ask Xx Jo
I had a lumpectomy just over a month ago (still sore) and have a radiotherapy planning session on Monday (16th July). Am still trying to decide whether to go ahead with radiotherapy or not as I didn't realise until I had my pathology results that it was a choice. They got all the cancer, it hadn't spread and the BRCA gene tests were negative. I'm trying to imagine how I would feel if I went ahead with it and the cancer came back but I couldn't have radiotherapy on the same area again, so had to lose the whole breast vs if I didn't go ahead and the cancer came back - would I be kicking myself?
Am mainly concerned about the potential longer-term side effects (heart and lung problems, sore ribs/fractures, change in size, shape, hardness of breast etc.), but would also like to know more about the short-term side effects too - burning, skin discolouration, fatigue etc. I have very fair skin that burns easily, but have been told that's not necessarily an indicator of what will happen with treatment.
My current situation is that I can't afford to have time off work and don’t have any statutory sick pay left after surgery, so have to work through the radiotherapy, as I live alone and mine is the only income. My commute to work is about 1 hour 20 mins each way and about 1 hour 10 mins each way to the hospital (work is about 45 mins from hospital) – all on public transport as I work in London. I need some tips on fatigue, best time to have appointments etc. if I go ahead.
The decision to go ahead or not might be a no-brainer to most people, but I was phobic about the surgery and had to practically be taken down to anaesthesia kicking and screaming (I had turned down other types of non-life threatening surgery twice, but they couldn’t kill me and this could).
The radiotherapy consultant told me that there was a 95% chance of the cancer not returning if I had radiotherapy, but couldn't tell me what the chances were of it returning if I didn't. This seems to differ with all the other percentages I’ve read about on the site.
I'd be really grateful if those of you who have been through radiotherapy could tell me a bit about the short and long-term side effects you have experienced and when, whether the cancer came back and when etc. I realise that it's different for everyone, but it would help me to make the decision.
Many thanks – and I wish you well, you are all so brave.