I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer after a routine mammogram. I had surgery, and my doctor recommended I have radiation therapy as well.
At my first appointment with the radiation oncologist, she explained what radiation therapy is and described what would happen during each session.
She told me the radiation therapist would give me small tattoos to make sure the treatment reached the same area each time. I don’t like tattoos, and it really caught me by surprise that I had to get them. As it turns out, they’re very small and I didn’t feel any pain having them.
At the planning appointment, the radiation therapists placed me in the position I would be in at each session. They told me I had to keep very still to make sure the treatment was effective. I saw the room where I would be having treatment, which was really helpful as it meant I knew what to expect at my first session.
I had treatment Monday to Friday for six weeks. Some days I had treatment very quickly, and on other days I had to wait a bit longer. I passed the time by reading a book or doing puzzles.
The actual treatment took only a few minutes each visit. I didn’t find it hard to keep still, as the therapists positioned me very well and I was kept in place with a mould shaped like a wedge.
Towards the end of the six weeks, I started to feel very tired and I would sleep a lot.
The nurses gave me cream and gel to put on the skin of the treatment area. I used it every day as soon as treatment started and for a short time after it finished. I developed dark marks that looked like burns, but most of them have faded.
Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, and Dean, RANZCR Faculty of Radiation Oncology, QLD; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Patricia Hanley, Consumer; Prof Michael Hofman, Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Physician, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Leanne Hoy, Cancer Nurse Consultant, GenesisCare, VIC; Sharon King, Accredited Practising Dietitian, TAS; Dr Yoo Young (Dominique) Lee, Radiation Oncology Consultant, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Dr Wendy Phillips, Senior Medical Physicist, Department of Radiation Oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Katrina Rech, Radiation Therapist and Quality Systems Manager, GenesisCare, SA. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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