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The radiation used in radiotherapy has the ability to prevent the growth of cancer cells and destroy them. Usually, the treatment lasts 5-6 weeks with daily sessions (excluding weekends).
- After a conserving treatment, irradiation of the mammary gland is almost always carried out because it reduces the risk of locoregional recurrence (breast and axillary lymph nodes) by 70%. This locoregional control of breast cancer helps to eliminate cancer cell clones (derived from the original cancer cells) that can produce distant metastasis. We say that "four local recurrences avoided at 5 years, is a life saved at 15 years.".
- After a mastectomy performed to treat invasive cancer, the parietal radiotherapy (chest wall) reduces the risk of local recurrence by about 70%.
- -Radiotherapy on the lymph node chains: indications depend on the size and location of the tumour, the aggressiveness of the cancer cells, as well the lymph node involvement.
- Radiotherapy is also used to treat certain brain or bone metastases.
Innovation: Intraoperative radiotherapy (during surgery)
Intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) allows the delivery of direct radiation to the tumour bed (the location of the tumour) during the lumpectomy. In some cases, this single dose of irradiation would replace 5-6 weeks of postoperative radiotherapy. Its indications are still undefined. This technique is still under study, and few centres in France have the necessary apparatus.