The current standard is for a breast cancer patient to undergo 5 to 6 weeks of daily external radiation therapy sessions with weekend breaks.
New external radiation techniques are currently being tested that require different treatment timetables. For example, intraoperative radiation involves one large dose of radiation being applied directly to the tumor site, immediately after the surgical removal of the tumor. Intraoperative radiation may or may not require the patient to undergo additional external radiation sessions after she recovers from surgery.
Another less commonly used treatment is hyperfractionated radiation therapy, which involves daily doses of radiation therapy given in smaller increments and separated by a non-treatment period of 4 to 6 hours. Although the smaller doses may help offset some of the side effects, the time schedule can be very stressful for the patient who has to go back and forth to the radiation facility several times a day.