Radiation Therapy and Breast Cancer


Radiation treatment plays an important role in most breast cancer patients, particularly those seeking breast-conserving therapy. Radiation is also used in patients with high-risk disease after a mastectomy.

At City of Hope, our image-driven planning using computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans means that radiation is accurately delivered to tumor sites, increasing the therapy’s effectiveness while reducing exposure to normal tissue.

Our radiation oncologists also work closely with breast surgeons and medical oncologists (who prepare and deliver drug therapies) to plan and provide customized care to each patient for optimal outcomes.

Radiation treatments offered include:

Standard External Radiation

In standard radiation, which is delivered over six to seven weeks, external beams of radiation target and treat breast tumor sites. Our team can customize the treatment plan to deliver a more uniform dose throughout the breast tissue, while working to avoid long-term fibrosis, leading to better cosmetic results.

The below image on the right illustrates our use of respiratory gating to focus radiation on the tumor (in red) while avoiding the heart (in blue).



Hypofractionated Radiotherapy

This form of radiation delivers a higher dose of radiation over a shorter period of time (four weeks), which can be as effective as standard radiation for some patients and enables them to make fewer visits for treatment.

Balloon Brachytherapy

For women who underwent a lumpectomy, balloon brachytherapy may be a viable option after surgery. This procedure uses a single catheter to insert and inflate a balloon at the cavity where the tumor is located. Radiation is then delivered into the balloon to treat the tumor site. The patient undergoes twice daily sessions — taking 20 minutes each — for five days, significantly shortening treatment duration and reducing healthy breast tissue's exposure to radiation (compared to standard radiation.)



Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT)

We also offer intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT), which delivers high-dose radiation treatment at the time of breast cancer surgery in select patients. By delivering a concentrated dose of radiation to cancerous tumors while they are exposed during surgery, IORT patients can forgo the typical six weeks of post-surgery daily radiation treatment that typically follows surgery.



Other advantages of IORT include:

  • Reduce or eliminate the need for whole breast irradiation
  • Direct visualization of target tissue
  • One-time radiation during lumpectomy procedure
  • Offer breast-conserving surgery to patients who might otherwise choose mastectomy
  • Potential to significantly reduce normal tissue toxicity

Read more about IORT.