Introduction: The management of breast cancer patients from diagnosis to treatment and beyond can be variable depending on factors including tumour extent and location, histology, genetics, health and wellbeing of the patient as well as personal patient preferences. The therapeutic radiographer's role is not only vital to ensure safe and accurate radiotherapy delivery but also crucially, as the regular patient interface, they must be fully empowered to engage effectively with all aspects of the patient care pathway. They must be knowledgeable and up to date with evidence-based practices relating to the patient experience including surgery, chemotherapy, endocrine therapy and radiotherapy.
Aim: The aim of this paper is to outline the breast cancer management pathway, highlighting the potential side effects that occur as a result of breast radiotherapy treatment and concomitant treatment in order to inform therapeutic radiographers and best practice.
Discussion: The treatment pathway for breast cancer patients varies greatly depending on a wide range of factors and is very much individualised for each patient. Each treatment modality has its advantages and disadvantages, and all come with a number of side effects that can affect a patient's daily living. Toxicities can arise during radiotherapy treatment or months after treatment, and education regarding the management of these is essential for effective patient care. Many technological advances in radiotherapy treatment techniques and regimes have the potential to decrease radiation-induced side effects. Despite attempts to standardise clinical guidelines on the use of topical agents and dressings, historical opinions and ideas are still evident in clinical practice. The use of grading systems in radiotherapy tends to only record patients' physical symptoms and not their holistic wellbeing and emotional needs.
Conclusion:Therapeutic radiographers must ensure that they remain equipped with the skills and knowledge to correctly manage and/or signpost services effectively. This overall outline of the management of patients with breast cancer is designed to help therapeutic radiographers reflect on the current practices and to inspire them, where evidence dictates, to seize opportunities, to explore improvement and to enhance best practice.
- breast cancer
- management of radiotherapy toxicities
- therapeutic radiographer