Dr. Song describes the steps involved during radiation therapy for breast cancer.
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Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer Step By Step What we find is that obviously every patient is shaped differently than the others and what we want to do is custom tailor our radiation so that we can specifically treatment someone just based on their body shape. We don’t want to treat somebody like somebody who is two times her size or half their size. We also want to take into account how their anatomy comes into play in terms of where the tumor is in relation to the healthy structure of the body. So when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and they come in for the planning, what we first do is do a planning session which is almost like a tailoring session where we are going to custom shape the radiation beams as if we were making a custom dress for that particular patient. Then the patient would come in; we’d first make a custom mold so that everyday when they lye down they will be in the exact same position day after day after day. We then would do a scan in our department. Those images we get saved into a computer. We can sit down and determine where all the contours of the breast are, where the heart is, the lungs, the rib cage. And then the computer will reconstruct that patient in three dimensions and allow us to superimpose all different angles to figure out what is the best angle to treat what we want to treat and how to shape the beams. So an exaggeration is that if the, say the breast, was the shape of the state of California we can make our beams that shape to treat everything in that state of California without treating any of the surrounding areas that we didn’t want to treat – the heart, the lungs; greatly reduce the dose to the rib cage and things of that nature. Once we do that then we would actually begin the treatments. The radiation is painless. They don’t feel it. They don’t see it. They don’t taste it. It is like going to the dentist and getting X-rays of your teeth or getting a chest X-ray. It’s not like a mammogram. There’s no compression of the breast or no daily pain associated with that, and patients can drive themselves back and forth for treatments. They can continue to exercise, work, be as active as they would like to do because many times what this is really geared to do is prevent the cancer from coming back and we want to get women back to living the lives that they had prior to their diagnosis.