Northern Centre for Cancer Care

Radiotherapy - information for finishing breast cancer radiotherapy

This page has been produced to give you information about what happens after completion of a course of radiotherapy, and aims to answer any questions you may have.

Finishing Your Radiotherapy

How long will the side effects of radiotherapy last?

The side effects of treatment such as skin reaction or tiredness can continue for a number of weeks after treatment but they will gradually settle.

How shall I care for my skin?

The side effects of treatment such as skin reaction or tiredness can continue for a number of weeks after treatment but they will gradually settle.

Your skin reaction may continue to get worse up to two weeks after finishing treatment.

Please continue with the following advice:

  • If your skin is pink but not uncomfortable, continue to moisturise with aqueous or E45 cream.
  • If your skin is sore or itchy, apply Hydrocortisone cream 1% thinly once or twice a day over the affected area for approximately one week after which your skin should begin to settle. If you have not been given this cream at NCCC then you can buy it from a pharmacy or by prescription from your G.P. Continue with the aqueous or E45 cream to the unaffected parts of the breast.
  • If the skin becomes cracked and moist, stop using the Hydrocortisone and moisturising creams. The areas most at risk are under your arm and in the fold under your breast. Seek advice from your G.P. or breast care nurse. You may be prescribed a cream called Flamazine or some gel based dressings.
  • Continue washing with a non-perfumed soap. You may use your own soaps, creams or body lotions when your skin reaction has settled.
  • Avoid using deodorant or shaving under your arm until your skin is back to normal.
  • Avoid swimming until your skin reaction has settled as chlorine can have a drying effect.
  • The skin in the treated area will always be more sensitive in the sun so it is important to use a sun block or high factor sun cream (at least 25) or cover the area from the sun.

Will I feel tired after radiotherapy?

You may feel tired or lethargic. This is considered to be normal and may take several weeks to resolve. Rest when you need to but taking light exercise may help. Please contact your G.P. or breast care nurse if you are concerned in any way.

When can I go back to work?

You can return to work as soon as you feel able. You may wish to discuss returning to work part- time at first with your employer if you are suffering from fatigue.

When will I next see my oncologist?

National guidelines suggest patients treated for breast cancer should be followed up for at least three years. For some patients this may be longer.

The North of England Cancer Network has decided that in general patients will be followed either by their surgeon or oncologist. Your personal follow up plan will be discussed with you.

You will receive a clinic appointment six to twelve weeks after finishing radiotherapy.

If your treatment includes Herceptin an earlier appointment will be arranged.

How can I help myself ?

It is important that you are "breast aware" and examine your breasts on a regular basis.

If you notice any of the following symptoms you should visit your GP for advice.

  • Recent changes in the area of your surgery including rashes or spots that don’t go away.
  • New lumps at the site of your surgery or within the treated breast.
  • New lumps in the armpit or neck.
  • New lumps or changes in the other breast or armpit.
  • Any nipple discharge or changes in the shape or appearance of the nipple.

You should also visit your GP with any other changes in your general health, including;

  • Shortness of breath or cough.
  • Bone pain.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Aches or pains that are not relieved by your normal medication.
  • Sudden or unexplained weight loss.

These symptoms may not be related to your previous breast cancer but your GP can advise you.

If you are worried about side effects after your treatment has finished, please contact your breast care nurse at your referring hospital or the NCCC Information Centre for further advice.

More Information

Useful Contacts

Northern Centre for Cancer Care Macmillan Information and Support Centre, 0191 2138611
Opening hours Monday to Friday from 9am to 4.30pm

Macmillan Cancer Relief, Head office 020 7840 7840, freephone 0808 800 1234,

Breast Cancer Care, Tel 0808 800 6000,

Leaflet to Download

When radiotherapy ends - Information for breast cancer patients.pdf

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