Radiotherapy is the administration of radiation in order to destroy cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying. It must be targeted to avoid damage to the vital organs around.
Radiotherapy for breast cancer, which follows very frequently the surgical treatment, can nevertheless cause side effects, which may not be revealed until later. These effects may be local, directly affecting the irradiated organs, or general, and of variable expression depending on the sensitivity of the individuals.
-Local effects, more or less late :
Cutaneous effects, simple redness even radiodermatitis.
Pulmonary fibrosis causing the lung tissue to lose its elasticity.
Coronary heart disease, heart rhythm disorders, heart troubles, congestive heart failure.
Radio-induced secondary cancers, on the oesophagus, lung, skin, ribs.
-General effects :
Decrease in the number of blood cells
Another insufficiently addressed problem of radiotherapy for breast cancer is the uneven radiosensitivity among women. The breast is a highly radiosensitive organ, and repeated breaks in the DNA strands contained in breast cells can lead to mutations over time and can lead to secondary, treatment-induced cancers. However, this effect occurs in a variable way depending on whether one is radioresistant or moderate or hyper-radiosensitive.
The fact is that 25% of the population has this hypersensitivity to radiation which predisposes them, due to a deficit in their cellular repair mechanisms, to increased mutations and potential secondary radiation-induced cancers.
As explained above, radiotherapy treatments for breast cancer, which deliver repeated doses per session and over several sessions, are of course targeted at best, but there is a risk of radiation-induced cancer beyond the targeted area, especially if one belongs to the 25% of people who are particularly vulnerable to radiation. In spite of the very high individual variability, therapists continue to administer the same doses for all, without any testing to predict the individual radiosensitivity of patients. However, these tests do exist, and it would be urgent to inform patients about the existence of these tests to assess their own radiosensitivity, as not all tests are of equal value, and to obtain reimbursement for the scientifically proven tests.