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Radiotherapy uses X-rays and other forms of radiation, such as high-energy electrons, to destroy cancer cells. It is used to treat one area at a time and can be administered externally or within the body. Radiotherapy can be particularly helpful for easing pain or discomfort in the bones, parts of the brain and the skin. While it may be some weeks before pain in the bone eases after radiotherapy, most people do experience relief, and many report that the pain has gone away completely.

Radiotherapy for metastatic breast cancer is usually administered in short courses of between one and 10 treatments in order to minimise side effects.

Side effects

Depending on the part of the body being treated, side effects of radiotherapy can include:

  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • skin reactions
  • nausea and vomiting

As radiotherapy continues working after the treatment has finished, it may be a couple of weeks before you start to feel the benefits.

The page on managing symptoms and side effects contains advice on dealing with certain side effects from various forms of treatment, including those from radiotherapy. 

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