The most common approach for breast cancer radiation involves adjuvant therapy, delivered after surgery to prevent a tumor from returning. At Johns Hopkins, our highly trained radiation oncologists use a multidisciplinary approach to treat breast cancer as precisely and effectively as possible.
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Our radiation oncologists most commonly use a type of external beam radiation called three-dimensional (3-D) conformal radiation therapy. For this technique, imaging scans are used to create a three-dimensional model of the exact shape and size of the tumor. Then multiple radiation beams are aimed at the tumor shape, sparing nearby healthy tissue.
In some cases, other techniques, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), may be used. IMRT delivers targeted radiation doses to the tumor site, patterned to match the shape of the tumor through modulating the intensity of the radiation beams.
By using computed tomography (CT) simulation during treatment planning, the oncologist can place the patient in the ideal position for radiation delivery. This also allows the oncologist to distribute an even radiation dose over the breast, ensuring sufficient delivery to target areas while minimizing side effects.
Our radiation oncologists treat patients in either the prone (face down) or supine (face up) positions, depending on the clinical scenario and the patient’s anatomy. In some cases, we use a prone breast board to improve the evenness of the radiation dose and protect the patient’s heart and lungs.
When needed, we recommend specific breath-hold techniques for patients with left-sided breast cancer who are being treated in the supine position. These techniques are known to protect the heart during radiation.
We provide the option of using ultraviolet tattoos to permanently mark areas for breast cancer radiation. Patients appreciate the cosmetic benefits of only being able to see the tattoo under ultraviolet light.
Proton Therapy is a form of targeted radiation treatment that uses energy from positively charged particles called protons. Protons very precisely zero in on tumors, delivering most of their cancer-fighting energy directly to cancer cells while minimizing radiation exposure and damage to neighboring healthy tissue and organs. This therapy option reduces the risk of late effects after treatment.
Learn more about our comprehensive Breast Cancer Program at Johns Hopkins.