Radiation For Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer refers to the cancer cells which have spread to other parts of the body. In such cases the cancer is said to be metastatic, advanced, or stage IV. Specific region of cancer spread are referred to as “metastases”. Radiation helps in such cases by decreasing the pain in the cancer by taking pressure off any pinched nerve which might be causing the pain.. Radiation also lowers the risk of broken bones and decreases bleeding. It reduces in size the cancer growth and thus helps controls those specific areas. In metastases, radiation therapy improves upon breathing by opening up of airways that are blocked.

Factors like the urgent requirement of the medical condition, exposure to any previous radiation and other concurrent treatments determine the radiation dose and schedule for metastases.

Usually, 3,000 centiGrays over 2 weeks or about 3,750-4,000 centiGrays over 3 weeks are the commonly prescribed doses.

Some of the metastatic breast cancers which are treated by radiation therapy are:

  • Spinal cord compression: backbone has a bundle of nerves called spinal cord, if the growth of cancer cells is causing swelling and putting pressure on the spinal cord it can be quite harmful for the body and can result in back pain, weakness, paralysis, and changed bowel and bladder habits.
  • Brain metastases: this results in headaches, nausea, numbness, vision changes, or, in rare cases, seizures.
  • Bleeding problems: cancers at times grow into the skin and cause bleeding like a tumour in an air passageway.
  • Cancer in the bones of the parts like the legs, hips, or arms weakens their internal anatomy destroying their structure and strength. This makes these bones brittle and susceptible to break, even without a fall or other injury.
  • Liver pain: at times cancer cells travel to the liver and grow inside the liver and stretch the surface of the liver. This leads to pain in the liver.
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