What about radiotherapy?


When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, it is usually a turning point in their life. Few forget the initial shock and disbelief after the diagnosis, as well as the fear and the feeling of helplessness that is experienced. In between all these emotions there are usually further tests that must be done and an urgency to start treatment – and to start experiencing the haven of care and empathy that is the oncology unit.


Treatment of cancer can be labelled curative (when the treatment is aimed at  the remission of the cancer and the healing of the patient is possible ) or palliative (when the treatment is aimed at ensuring symptom control and focuses on improving quality of life of the patient ) cure is not possible patients can live long and well before they pass on.

The oncology team will decide on the best possible treatment for you, depending on the type of cancer and the stage it is in. We talked about this coordination of care in this post and about the teams who will take care of you in this one.

One of the ways in which your cancer may be treated is though radiotherapy. This is the use of high-energy x-ray beams that can penetrate tissue, causing cell damage and cell death and reducing the cancer growth.

Normal cells are also influenced by radiation, but most of them recover from the effect of radiation. Normal tissue still needs to be protected from radiation as far as possible so the total amount of radiation is limited to the dosage normal tissue can tolerate.

Every patient’s treatment is planned individually with the use of highly sophisticated 3-D computer technology. Normal tissue is protected from radiation beams when possible and the newer radiation machines have built-in  shielding that is very sensitive and effectively protects the patients sensitive organs.

The aim of radiotherapy is to kill cancer cells with as little risk as possible to normal cells.  Radiotherapy can be used in the treatment of different kinds of cancer in nearly any part of the body.

Radiation, like surgery, is a local treatment. It influences only the tissue in the specific area of the body that is being radiated.

Radiation is often used in combination with surgery to treat cancer. Radiation can be given before surgery to shrink a cancer mass, this may enable them to remove all cancer tissue by using less extensive surgical methods. Radiotherapy can also be given after surgery to reduce the chances of regrowth of any remaining cancer cells.

In some cases radiation is used in combination with chemotherapy. The radiation can be given before, during or after chemotherapy. Combination therapy is tailored carefully to suit each individual patient’s needs according to the type of cancer, the location and the disease stage.

Where a cure isn’t a realistic option anymore, radiation is often used to shrink cancer masses and in doing so to relieve pressure, pain and other symptoms associated with uncontrolled cancer growth. This treatment is known as palliation (symptom relief). Most cancer patients find that they can lead a better quality of life after radiation for problematic symptoms.


Next week we will explain what to expect when you go for your radiotherapy treatment.


Biopsy Basics: Luminal A & Luminal B

In looking at the Luminal A and Luminal B breast cancer sub-types, we’ve summarised excerpts from a variety of expert sources into which we’ve included links for you to follow for deeper insights.

advocates for breast cancer_biopsy_luminal a and b
{ original cellular images courtesy of ww.spandidos.com }



Luminal A and Luminal B types:

  • The luminal types are estrogen receptor (ER)–positive.
  • The gene expression patterns of these cancers are similar to normal cells that line the breast ducts and glands (the inside of a duct or gland is called its lumen).
  • Luminal A cancers are low grade, tend to grow fairly slowly, and have the best prognosis.
  • Luminal B cancers generally grow somewhat faster than luminal A cancers and their outlook is not as good.

READ MORE:American Cancer Society‘s Detailed Guide to Breast Cancer Classifying 



Luminal A — the least aggressive and most common subtype — accounts for 42% to 59% of all breast cancers, according to background information in the study.

Luminal B typically occurs in younger women and accounts for about 10% of all breast cancers.

Current research suggests that luminal A and luminal B cancers are two completely different diseases, and work is being performed to better distinguish between these two disease types so as to deliver more effective therapy to individual patients.

(Quite medically technical article!) READ MORE:→ The Oncologist‘s New Developments in Hormone Receptor–Positive Disease


Luminal A:

  • These cancers grow slowly.
  • When cancers turn up on screening mammograms, they are most often Luminal A.
  • They have a cure rate of more than 90% and generally can be treated with limited surgery and radiation.
  • Chemotherapy is usually not necessary.

Luminal B:

  • Compared to Luminal A, these cancers are more likely to grow aggressively
  • Can spread into blood vessels and the lymph system.
  • Not as aggressive as Basal and HER2-positive cancers.
  • Luminal B cancers can be challenging to remove completely, so a second surgery is sometimes necessary to achieve clear surgical margins around the tumor with no cancer cells.

READ MORE: Know Your Breast Cancer‘s How Genomic Tests for ‘Subtypes’ Help Target Treatment


Luminal A

  • Luminal A breast cancer cells can remain in a single location without spreading into the lymph system or blood stream.
  • Because Luminal A breast cancers are so slow-growing and unlikely to spread, there is a risk of overtreatment.
  • Luminal A breast cancers can generally be cured without chemotherapy, using limited surgery alone or in combination with radiation therapy.
  • Left untreated, there is a possibility that Luminal A cancers can develop into Luminal B cancers.

Luminal B

  • Unlike Luminal A cancers, which are situated in a specific site, Luminal B cancers can manifest in multiple sites within a particular region of the breast, with normal breast tissue existing in between.
  • In these instances, mammography often underestimates the size of primary cancers and fails to detect secondary cancers.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help to more accurately measure and detect Luminal B cancers.
  • Treatments for Luminal B breast cancers can include limited surgery, mastectomy, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
  • Recommended treatment options available to each woman will vary based on a range of personal factors regarding her disease and her risk factors.

READ MORE: Breastlink‘s Types of Breast Cancer



ARTICLE: Understanding Your Pathology Report


VIDEO: Understanding Pathology for Breast Cancer