Radiation therapy is an important part of the treatment of breast cancer. It allows the doctors to prevent tumor recurrence after surgery. All types of irradiation are equally effective. At the same time, radiation therapy for breast cancer in modern, well-equipped cancer centers is much safer for health. It does not damage the organs located near the irradiated area, and does not cause severe side effects associated with impaired functioning of the lungs and heart. This leads to better quality of life in a long-term perspective.
When is radiation therapy carried out?
If you are undergoing treatment in Germany, then, with a high probability, the operation for breast cancer will be organ-preserving. The doctors in most clinics do not perform total mastectomy and give preference to carrying out partial breast removal. This allows the woman to maintain an attractive appearance, especially if she subsequently undergoes breast reconstruction.
After a partial breast removal, all patients are referred to radiotherapy centers for further treatment. It is necessary to reduce the risk of local recurrence – the redevelopment of breast cancer in the area of tumor removal. Radiation destroys the cancer cells that may have remained after the surgical removal of the primary tumor.
After breast-conserving surgery, further breast cancer treatment is carried out without radiation therapy very rarely. This is possible only in combination of the following factors:
- Woman is over 70 years old
- Breast cancer is of luminal type A (predictively favorable type)
- After the operation, the woman undergoes long-term hormonal therapy
- Size of the tumor at the time of surgical treatment of breast cancer did not exceed 2 cm in the largest dimension
- Metastatic foci of breast cancer in the lymph nodes are absent
After a mastectomy, radiation therapy is usually not required, but exceptions are possible. A woman is referred to the radiotherapy center even after total mastectomy in the following cases:
- Size of the tumor at the time of removal exceeded 5 cm in the largest dimension
- Cancer cells were detected at the edges of the surgical wound (at the border of the removed tissue) or at a distance of less than 1 mm from the edge
- Foci of breast cancer metastasis were detected in the removed axillary lymph nodes
At the advanced stages of breast cancer, most cancer centers do not use radiation therapy. The preference is given to the systemic drug therapy, because the drugs administered into the body affect not only the primary tumor, but also its metastases, including undetected ones. Sometimes doctors in German cancer centers perform palliative radiation therapy. It can help reduce symptoms and prevent certain complications. It is possible to irradiate not only the primary tumor, but metastatic foci in the bones or brain as well.
How is radiation therapy performed?
Radiation therapy is a painless treatment method, which does not cause any discomfort. The procedure is the same as an X-ray, but takes more time. Careful preparation is required, including planning, marking, and laying. For some types of radiation therapy, tumor imaging is carried out before each radiation session.
If you want to undergo treatment in Germany, you can expect that the radiation procedure will take a minimum of time. Some devices allow the doctors to perform it in literally 2 minutes.
There are several irradiation types.
Conventional radiation therapy is an outdated method, which is not used in German hospitals. Irradiation is carried out in 2D mode. The disadvantages are low accuracy and damage to organs located near the target region.
Conformal radiation therapy is carried out in 3D mode. Linear accelerators are used in modern radiotherapy centers. They direct the beams from different angles, considering the configuration of the tumor and ensuring the maximum safety of the procedure.
IMRT is a type of 3D conformal radiation therapy with modulating the intensity of the beams. This method allows the specialists to additionally reduce radiation exposure of the vital organs (i.e. heart and lungs).
The doctors usually irradiate the whole breast. An additional dose of irradiation can be directed to the tumor bed, lymph nodes, and, if necessary, to the thoracic wall.
How often should I attend radiation therapy sessions?
For breast cancer, radiation therapy can be performed in different modes.
Standard fractionation is used in most cancer centers as the main treatment method for breast cancer. The entire dose of radiation is divided into approximately 30 fractions. The woman attends radiation therapy sessions 5 days a week, for 6 weeks.
Hypofractionation is more convenient as it only takes 3-4 weeks, but less effective, therefore not suitable for all women with breast cancer. Radiation doses are increased and the number of radiation therapy sessions is reduced. This method is used in some clinics only if metastatic lesions of lymph nodes are absent.
Accelerated partial breast irradiation is the most convenient radiation therapy option, since it takes only 5 days to complete the entire course. The types of the accelerated partial irradiation include not only standard external beam radiation therapy, but also brachytherapy or intraoperative radiation therapy. This treatment option is not available in all cancer centers and is not suitable for all women. During the preliminary elaboration of the treatment scheme, the doctor determines if this radiation therapy type is suitable for the patient.
The risk of side effects and complications development is lower if your treatment is carried out using modern equipment.
Breast swelling, redness and peeling of the skin, fatigue and weakness are possible during the treatment. These complaints are temporary. They pass away completely in few weeks or months after the breast cancer completion.
Long-term complications are:
- Brachial plexopathy – radiation damage to the brachial plexus causes numbness, arm pain, or weakness
- Hypogalactia is a lack of breast milk after childbirth, it occurs in some women who have underwent radiation therapy for breast cancer
- Swelling of the arm and chest due to impaired lymph circulation (after lymph node irradiation)
- Breast deformation
Severe complications occur rarely. They are typical for the outdated methods of radiotherapy for breast cancer. Rib fractures, problems with the functioning of the heart or lungs, the onset of such secondary malignant neoplasms as angiosarcoma (it develops 8-10 years after radiation therapy for breast cancer) are possible after irradiation using gamma machines.
Why is it better to undergo treatment of oncology in Germany?
More and more women with breast cancer want to undergo treatment in Germany. It is less traumatic, safer and more effective, as well as ensures a higher quality of life upon the oncology treatment completion. Here are some reasons why it is better to contact one of the German cancer centers:
- Your treatment in Germany will be performed by doctors who rank among the world's best specialists in the treatment of breast cancer
- Modern linear accelerators are used in German hospitals for irradiation of tumors with minimal health risks
- Irradiation on some devices takes only 2-3 minutes
- Intraoperative breast irradiation and brachytherapy for breast cancer are available in many clinics
- You can undergo treatment in Germany in 5 days instead of 6 weeks (some clinics offer accelerated partial breast irradiation)
- German clinics ensure the best ratio of cost of treatment and quality
Radiation therapy is only a part of the combined breast cancer treatment in Germany. In German hospitals, you can also undergo surgery for removal of a tumor and breast reconstruction. As a part of a combined treatment in Germany, it is possible to undergo chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and targeted therapy for breast cancer, if necessary.
What clinics offer specialized treatment?
You can contact one of these clinics for breast cancer treatment in Germany.
Gamma Knife and Radiotherapy Center Krefeld. The center has been operating since 1998, and in 2001 it received the ISO 9001 certificate. The prices for a treatment are low here and the quality of treatment is very high. The center uses the Axesse linear accelerator. It creates 3D models of the irradiated organs and directs radiation with a possible error of 0.3 mm. It is a unique robotic system, which uses vital structure exclusion technology (CSA).
MediClin Robert Janker Clinic. The medical center has DIN EN ISO 9001:2015 certification. The hospital is certified by the German Cancer Society. The clinic collaborates with the Radiotherapy Center Bonn-Rhein-Sieg. It carries out not only external beam radiation therapy, but also brachytherapy for breast cancer. Radiosurgical treatment of metastases is also possible. In this center, irradiation is carried out very quickly: it takes 15 minutes, together with the preparation.
University Hospital Frankfurt am Main. The Department of Radiation Therapy is recognized by Focus magazine as one of the best in Germany. It is part of the University cancer center. More than 1,300 patients are irradiated here annually. The center offers a CyberKnife, brachytherapy, and intraoperative radiation therapy for breast cancer.
Treatment in Germany with Booking Health
If you want to undergo treatment in Germany at an affordable price, you can use the Booking Health services. On the Booking Health portal you can find the information about the cost of treatment for breast cancer, German hospitals, the best doctors in cancer centers, as well as compare the cost of treatment of oncology in different German clinics and book a medical program at the best price.
The Booking Health company will arrange a trip for you to one of the German cancer centers. The company provides the following services and benefits:
- Selection of a hospital, which specializes in the treatment of breast cancer and has the very latest equipment for the safe radiation therapy
- Direct communication with the doctor
- Reduced waiting period for a treatment in Germany and making an appointment on a convenient date
- Reduced cost of treatment in Germany – prices are reduced due to the exclusion of additional coefficients for foreign patients
- Reliable information about your expenses, the cost of individual medical procedures, funds on your account
- Preparation of a preliminary program of treatment in Germany without repeating previously performed examinations
- Communication with the cancer center upon the medical program completion
- Buying and forwarding of medicines
- Organization of additional diagnostics or treatment in Germany
The specialists of Booking Health provide high quality services. We will book a hotel and airline tickets for you, organize a transfer from the airport to the hospital and back.