PATH 1: Early Stage Breast Cancer

PATH 2: Neoadjuvant Therapy

PATH 3: Pregnancy During Breast Cancer


PATH 5: Metastatic Stage 4


Another common part of treatment for breast cancer is radiation. This uses high energy radiation, usually an external beam, to kill cancer cells and reduce the risk of recurrence in the breast, along the chest wall and in the lymph nodes. 
Radiation is usually part of your treatment if you have had a lumpectomy and may be recommended to you following a mastectomy. If you have Stage 4 breast cancer radition may help with symptoms such as bone pain. 

Radiation is what we call a localized therapy, so it only treats the area of the body it is used directly on. If cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body from the breast, radition may be used to treat them. Radiation would be give directly to those areas. 

On this page, you will find the types of radiation that may be given based on prior treatments, as well as side effects and how to cope. 


Another treatment for breast cancer, in combination with surgical and medical therapy, is radiation. This uses high energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation reduces the risk of cancer recurrence in the breast (after lumpectomy), along the chest wall (after mastectomy) and in the axilla. The reduction in risk also applies to DCIS
Most commonly, radiation is delivered by an external beam (a highly-focused beam delivered from the outside of your body) to the breast and/or axilla.

Treatments typically occur every day Monday through Friday for four to five weeks (16-25 treatments). Some patients may also get a "boost" of radiation to the area where the tumour was in the breast.

Radiation therapy and surgery

If you have undergone a lumpectomy, radiation therapy will be recommended as part of your treatment. Research with long-term follow up has shown that breast-conserving surgery with radiation is equal to mastectomy for treatment of breast cancer. 
If you have undergone a mastectomy, radiation may still be recommended. The decision to offer radiation after mastectomy depends on many factors including, but not limited to your age, tumour features and lymph node status. 
Radiation therapy is typically the final step of your cancer treatment. Therapy usually begins approximately four to six weeks after your last treatment. For some women, this will be after their surgery, for others, following chemotherapy, depending on the order the treatments were given.

Side effects

The most common side effects of breast cancer radiation are: skin changes such as dryness or itchiness, a sun-burn like effect, breast heaviness and general fatigue.

Most patients can continue with their normal daily activities, including work, during their radiation treatments. The radiation is only given to you and has no risk to those around you, so you don’t need to worry about it affecting your family or friends.
Finally, there are other situations in which you may need radiation. It can be used in metastatic breast cancer (Stage 4) to treat symptoms related to metastases. For example, bone pain from bone metastasis or neurologic symptoms related to brain metastasis.


After you have your surgery, you will meet with your radiation oncologist; he or she will review the risks and benefits of radiation with you. Keep in mind that most women will receive anywhere from 16 to 25 treatments of radiation. It will take place every day (but not on weekends), so plan for incorporating that into your daily routine.


As you are reaching the end of your cancer treatment, you will likely be feeling some of the side effects of chemotherapy (if you’ve had that) and fatigue. You may find you are going through a variety of emotions as your body changes, so it's important to take care of yourself and rely on your support networks


Your team at this time will include your radiation oncologist and radiation technologists.