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Getting ready for left breast radiation

Getting ready for left breast radiation

Posted by Peterpatch on May 11, 2020 4:28 pm

Wow things moving at warp speed. I have my official first radiation appointment this Thursday. My cancer is in my left breast so I need to travel to the regional cancer centre for specialized treatments inorder to protect my heart and lungs. I need to practice breathing exercises and get three tattoos. I will have 16 radiation treatments starting May 25th. How should I dress? What questions should I ask? The list of side effects is a little overwhelming because I am a big baby regarding pain.

Re: Getting ready for left breast radiation

Posted by Essjay on May 11, 2020 8:13 pm

Hi Peterpatch‍ good to hear things are moving quickly for you.

what to wear - you will be asked to put on a gown (one with the back open and then another like a bathrobe to maintain your privacy), bra off. You can keep your pants on...

The set up appointment is done in a CT machine and they will check clearance with the breath hold and without, and you will get your tiny tattoos.

Ask about recommended creams for your skin, can you use deodorant, things like that. Get them to take you step by step through what happens.

Radiation is a well oiled machine - they will get you in and done very quickly. The first session takes a long time as they get you set up, but they make notes of anything particular for you and they will be ready next time. My issue was neuropathy in my hands. I couldn’t hold the bar, so I had blocks under my arms to keep them in the right place. 

I had a mental block about being shut in the room on my own. My brain would panic that the power would go off and I’d be stuck in there on my own in the dark. Quite ridiculous really!

Hope this helps xx
Triple Negative Breast Cancer survivor since July 2018

Re: Getting ready for left breast radiation

Posted by Kims1961 on May 11, 2020 8:52 pm

Peterpatch‍ This is wonderful news!!  I also had left breast radiation.  The breathing techniques, for me, were a little tricky at first as i wasn't taking a deep enough breath.  The good news is that the techs are very experienced with this and patient.  They will have strategies to help.  Once i learned to relax and take a slow deep breath from my diaphragm , it was much easier.

Essjay‍ gave you some great tips. In the room i was in, they played music.  THat seemed to help me with the claustrophobia  - it's a big room and airy but listening to music was a good distraction.  It was over so quickly - that's the benefit - you are in and out fast, once they get you in the correct position.

Let us know how it goes! Kim
Her2+, ER+ Bilateral mastectomy in 2017, followed by chemo and radiation. Mack and Hannah's mom

Re: Getting ready for left breast radiation

Posted by Treepeo on May 12, 2020 7:31 am

Hi Peterpatch‍,

I just recently finished 15 rounds of radiation and it was not bad at all.  When you get your tattoos, they will likely do a simulation with you so you know what to expect.  I had my treatments at Princess Margaret.  What they do there is put a tube in your mouth and pincers on your nose.  That forces you to breathe through your mouth.  And once they tell you to hold your breath, they cut off your air supply so you can't accidentally take a breath.  This is done to protect your heart.  The simulation made me nervous, but the actual treatments were not so bad, as I didn't have to hold my breath for long periods of time.  Maybe 15 seconds at the max.  Just do your best to relax and breathe from your abdomen.  The radiation therapists are highly skilled and can see and hear you through the whole process, so you never had to worry about that.

Princess Margaret has a series of short but excellent videos online that take you through the whole process.  I found them really useful because once I watched them, I was not so afraid of the process.  I highly recommend you check them out.  Go to www.whattoexpectrt.theprincessmargaret.ca.  They don't show the tube you will get in your mouth, because not everyone has to do that, but it does take you through the steps in the radiation process.  They also explain how diligently they maintain their equipment, which was very reassuring.

Re: Getting ready for left breast radiation

Posted by Peterpatch on May 12, 2020 8:44 am

Thank you very much. This is really helpful because I am a detail oriented type of person. I function best when I know what to expect.

Re: Getting ready for left breast radiation

Posted by MLYuen on May 12, 2020 12:01 pm

Peterpatch‍ Hello, me too, had 16 sessions of RAD at left breast in early 2019, a couple of months after my lumpectomy in Nov 2018.  Looking back, the experience was better than I expected. The techs here in Vancouver BC Cancer Agency were patient, kind and work very fast as a team.  The nurse prepared me 2 weeks prior with my tattoos (a very tiny small dot at either side of my L breast as markers), and did a quick run through about the breathing and took a look at the RAD machine with me. They also measured my back so to get my back support ready to fit in (the back support as I lay down to do my rad, each person have a different measurement). This also helps to focus on the beam so that my body is well centered when lying on the RAD bed. Everything was done very smooth and quick during this 'orientation'. On the day of my 1st RAD, I was nervous but the tech team leader was organized and did a further run down of how things work around the RAD session of the ward, and my RAD time schedule etc etc...After the 1st RAD session was done, I quickly catch up and got into the routine for the rest of my 15 sessions.  

I would say everything the ladies shared here are true. RAD is done very quick each time.  I was working at the office during the day and took half day off to get my RAD done in the afternoons during those 3 weeks of treatments. I felt more fatigue as the treatment sessions moved on, I felt it more after the half way mark (after the 7 to 8th sessions), and would need my nap when I arrived home.  My skin started to turn red and sore also after the half way mark, but still manageable until the very last session. Lots of good skin care creams (doctor recommended me), self care, drank tons of water, got at least 8 to 9 hours sleep every night, and eat a healthy diet. I started seeing a naturopath doctor prior to my RAD session, and got into a routine of drinking green tea morning and throughout the day as a detox.

My skin started to heal 2 to 3 weeks AFTER my final session once all the 'junk' started to ease out from my breast skin, and a mild peeling happened, very mild. More self skin care and within a couple of months, the skin started to look better and better as the weeks moved on.  To this date, my breast skin is totally recovered.  Remember to listen to your body, relax and trust that you are in good hands of your radiation team :) 

Good luck to you!!


Re: Getting ready for left breast radiation

Posted by Peterpatch on May 12, 2020 11:36 pm

Thank you Treepeo for suggesting the "whattoexpect" video series done by Princess Margaret. It was very helpful.