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Is radiation necessary after chemo?

Ctine70's picture
Posts: 150
Joined: Sep 2012

Just wondering if I really still need to have radiation after chemo? Isn't chemo suppose to kill everything?

TraciInLA's picture
Posts: 1996
Joined: Jul 2009

If you've had a lumpectomy, then radiation is considered a standard part of your treatment plan.

Chemo and radiation have two different purposes: Chemo is to kill any cancer cells that may have escaped from the breast and gone on a little trip through your bloodstream. Radiation is to kill any microscopic cancer cells in the breast that the surgeon may not have been able to see.

Radiation is also sometimes used after mastectomy, though I don't know as much about those situations.

Hope that helps,


Posts: 653
Joined: Oct 2012

Based on the pathology reports -- the size of the tumor in one area plus one affected lymph node -- I was encouraged to do the chemo and RT, more as a preventative measure, even though the DRs believed they got everything. Before the reports, I already knew I would have to do hormonal therapy.

I would guess that the decision is yours. It depends on whether or not you think it's worth it to you to do chemo and RT. I had 8 infusions (AC & then T) every other week from April to mid-July; I had RT from August through September. Currently I take a hormonal therapy pill, and will for five years.

Based on what the reports indicated, I thought that going through the regimen gave me a better chance at a healthy life afterwards.

I am feeling very good right now, and have for weeks. I got through the chemo and RT with a few challenges, but they were manageable. I realize it's not the same for everyone, though. I think your general health and mental attitude play a lot into that.

Make a decision you won't regret later. As someone told me, after you make a decision, don't second-guess yourself. No one is the same.

lynn1950's picture
Posts: 2574
Joined: Jun 2008

Boy, you really hope that chemo has gotten every nasty cell -but it doesn't always. That's why radiation is another line of defense. It is to zap every cell that may still survive after a lumpectomy or mastectomy and chemo. In a small per cent of cases, cancer even survives after these treatments! Many of us take AIs to have an ongoing defense against new cancer growth. xoxoxo Lynn

SIROD's picture
Posts: 2199
Joined: Jun 2010

Chemotherapy is to wipe out cells that are floating around in your blood or lymph and this is a systemic treatment. Radiation is to take care of where the cancer was or is and wipe out the cancer. It is a localized treatment.

You should have both to give yourself the best odds.


Angie2U's picture
Posts: 2992
Joined: Sep 2009

I didn't have chemo, but, I was told that rads were necessary after a lumpectomy and sometimes a mastectomy to kill any cancer cells left behind by surgery. Apparently, during surgery, the cancer cells can become "irritated" and just hide and that is why the rads are so important.

Posts: 3660
Joined: Aug 2009

Then that would be a cure - it isn't! THe different types (IBC/IDC/ILC/DCIS/LCIS/rarer forms) are different. ER/PR/Her2 status is different for each of us as is Stage/grade/etc.

Very simplistically as it was explained to me for me - chemo (A/C) neo-adjuvant to try to get it to shrink and form margins so surgeon had a chance of getting it. Then surgery to remove all that surgeon could find. Then another chemo to attack any that was 'floating' around in the lymph system or anywhere. Then rads to re-hit the direct area effected 'just in case'.

Only you can decide what you want to do.

Winyan - The Power Within


Noel's picture
Posts: 3100
Joined: Apr 2009

Rads kill stray cancer cells left from the scalpel. If your onco suggests it as part of your treatment, I hope you will go ahead with them. They aren't easy, but, you can do it.

Hugs, Noel

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

Just wanted to share my little sister's story... She thought radiation was overkill after chemo and hormone therapy cuz she was just stage one. She had a recurrence 5 years later and had radiation and is now on hormone therapy for life.

Megan M's picture
Megan M
Posts: 3001
Joined: Dec 2009

Just saying what everyone else wrote, and, that is that rads kill any leftover cancer cells that are lurking around. Whether you do or not is up to you. Even rads won't guarantee that the cancer won't come back, nothing will unfortunately.

Good luck in your decision,


Ctine70's picture
Posts: 150
Joined: Sep 2012

I am going to have the radiation was just confused on why it was necessary but all you clear that up for me.
Thank you so much
Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!

Posts: 4376
Joined: Jun 2009

Wishing you good luck with rads Christine. When do you start?

Hugs, Jan

Posts: 15
Joined: Nov 2013

having the same debate as you did - did you have the radiation? how did you do? do you still feel that it is worth it?


Posts: 653
Joined: Oct 2012

Yesterday an older friend of mine was talking to me about radiation. Her daughter was one of my best friends, and she succumbed to cancer two years ago this past November. Anyhow, she said to me she has wondered why it was that radiation therapy was never an option suggested to her daughter when she first began her battle. (Her husband has said the same thing.) Val had only one breast removed. She had chemo. That was it. A few years later, the cancer returned -- initially to her bones.

I realize things change over the years, even as far as what DRs do and what they recommend. From what my surgeon was saying today when I mentioned the same thing to him, different DRs have different ideas as to what to do. My friend went to a different hospital, one with a reputable reputation [sounds redundant, doesn't it?] in cancer treatments.

I say this to say that there are many good reasons to go through with the "complete" program, even if its purpose is preventative.


jnl's picture
Posts: 3873
Joined: May 2009

Wishing you good luck too!


CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

How are you doing?  (((hugs)))

Posts: 1
Joined: May 2015

From what I have read, it is important to have Radiation after Chemotherapy, because it will kill any cells that can not be seen called micro, meaning too small to see by the naked eye, so that your chances of not getting cancer again, can be better.  It is a good thing to have Radiation after Chemotheraphy has stopped. 

John Smith
Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2017

We were advised that it's a numbers game. If you are reading this because you are worried, ask about 5 and 10 year survival rates with and without treatment.

Why is it beneficial? According to our specialist, survival rates increase with treatment. For us, it was about 17% increase of survival.

The way I think about it is that there's no guaranteed way to find cancer, especially in small quantities (as should be after surgery). The chemotherapy is a broad spectrum treatment to treat any cancers that may have spread to other parts of the body.

Radiotherapy provides extra treatment in the affected area. If it started there once, it could start there again. Not all chemotherapy works, so, this is approaching the problem from a different angle to increase chances.

There is also hormone treatment for breast cancer. This is because oestrogen is linked with breast cancer. Hormone replacement suppresses oestrogen. As an interesting tidbit, check breast cancer rates in 3rd world countries where birth rates are higher. The rates of breast cancer are significantly lower.

If you've developed cancer once, it can happen again. Vigilance is essential for the rest of your life. This is why survival rates are usually only talked about for 5 and 10 years. If you survive that long, your original cancer was cured. However, it's no guarantee it won't happen again.

You have good reason to ask and to be nervous. I wish anyone with cancer the best of luck. With a good attitude, it can bring people together.

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