Radiation therapy may be used to shrink the size of the tumor prior to breast cancer surgery (called neoadjuvant therapy) or after surgery to destroy cancer cells that remain in the breast or chest wall, or under the arm (called adjuvant therapy).

Radiation is a local treatment, which means that any side effects are limited to the treatment area. Patients who undergo radiation therapy to treat breast cancer usually are able to tolerate therapy well.

This section contains lists of questions to ask your doctor about radiation therapy. Print these pages, check the questions you would like answered, and take them with you to your doctor appointment. The more knowledge you have, the easier it is to make decisions about radiation therapy to treat breast cancer.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

  • Why has radiation therapy been recommended to treat my breast cancer?
  • Can you describe this treatment?
  • What steps can I take to prepare for radiation therapy?
  • How often will I receive radiation treatments and how long will each treatment take?
  • Is radiation therapy painful?
  • Will the radiation dose or treatment area change over the course of therapy?
  • What are the short-term and long-term side effects of radiation therapy for breast cancer?
  • What steps can I take to reduce these effects?
  • How may my skin be affected by radiation therapy? How should I care for my skin during treatment?
  • How can I expect to feel during treatment? Can I continue my normal daily routine?
  • What are the potential severe side effects of radiation?
  • Who should I contact if I experience complications during treatment? Telephone number to call:
  • Will radiation therapy affect my fertility?
  • What type of follow-up care will I receive after radiation therapy for breast cancer?

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 22 Oct 2008

Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015