Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Radiation for Breast Cancer Isn't Totally Risk-Free

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Radiation for Breast Cancer Isn't Totally Risk-Free

Article excerpt

Dear Doctor K: I had radiation therapy for breast cancer a few years ago. Now I'm reading that radiation therapy might increase my risk for heart disease. Is this true? Can I do anything to decrease my risk?

Dear Reader: Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to damage or destroy cancer cells. It harms cancer cells primarily by damaging their genes. But the radiation can also damage the genes of healthy non-cancerous cells.

Newer radiation techniques allow higher doses of radiation to be aimed more precisely at the area being treated. This reduces damage to healthy tissue near a tumor, but it doesn't eliminate it completely.

In women who have had breast radiation, the lifetime risk of having a heart attack or another major cardiac event increases about 3 percent. …

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