In the final two weeks of your radiation therapy, you may receive a supplemental dose of radiation. This boost dose of radiation is applied directly to the area where the breast surgery was performed.
If you receive the boost dose externally, you won’t be able to notice any difference from previous radiation treatment. The boost dose is delivered from the same machines and takes the same amount of time to administer.
Although less common, sometimes internal radiation treatment (called brachytherapy) is used to deliver the boost dose. In this case, you will have small tubes surgically implanted under the area where the tumor was removed. The radiation oncologist will place radioactive substances into these tubes. The radioactive substances emit radiation to the nearby tissue.
Usually, you will need to stay in the hospital for a day or two while the implanted tubes containing the radioactive substances are left in place. Because the boost dose of internal radiation (i.e., the brachytherapy) makes you temporarily radioactive to yourself and to anyone who comes in contact with you, visits from other people will be kept to a minimum. Although this may sound alarming, you should remember that the radiation oncology staff at the clinic or hospital knows how to protect you and everyone who comes into contact with you. You can be confident that proper precautions will be taken to ensure everyone’s safety.