Radiation Therapy

The main purpose of our trip to Halifax last week was to consult with the radiation oncologist about radiation therapy. While we were waiting, I picked up a copy of all the various handouts they give when you are having radiation therapy. They provided some really useful information specific to having radiation therapy at the QEII (the hospital in Halifax).

A skeletal image showing the lymphatic system indicating that the lymph nodes in the right axilla region have been removed.
A skeletal image showing which lymph nodes were removed during my lymph node dissection

The radiation oncologist explained that the target of the radiation would be on the lymph nodes along the same chain as the ones that were removed – that is the nodes that would be “next in line” if the cancer were to spread. These nodes are located in placed under bones and muscles making them difficult or impossible to operate on. In addition, if these nodes do get cancer, they can be very painful and there is little to be done about it. Radiation now would reduce the likelihood of the cancer returning to those nodes.

A close of up the lymph node system showing the lymph nodes going under the collar bone.
A closer look shows how the chain of lymph nodes moves under the collar bone towards the neck. There are also muscles and nerves that would be affected by a cancerous lymph node in that area.

One of the unfortunate side effects is that there will be damage to the upper lobe of the lung. This will show up as scaring in x-rays. It is not expected to affect my breathing, as most people breath with their lower lungs – and I know that I certainly have since my initial mastectomy surgery – I rarely use the top of my lungs.

The lymph nodes with the lung underneath showing how the target lymph nodes are right about the upper lobe of the lung.
Shows the lymph system and the lungs. As you can see, the upper lymph nodes are above the upper lobe of the lung.

The next step is to do an appointment for markings. In the US they call this appointment simulation. That is scheduled for Monday 15 January. The process of pre-treatment radiation markings involves using a CT scan to determine the exact areas that will be radiated. Pinhead-sized tattoos are then created to help locate these areas with precision during the actual radiation treatments.

Once that is done, I’ll get a call to schedule my appointments. The person who does that also sets up accommodations in Halifax. The pamphlet says it is either at The Lodge that Gives or Point Pleasant Lodge. That being said, a friend of mine was put up at the Lord Nelson Hotel when her husband was having radiation. I think it really depends on availability and length of treatment. Either way, we will be staying in Halifax Monday – Friday for three weeks. They reserve the late Monday and early Friday treatment time slots for those of us who travel for treatment, which is nice. It will mean we can spent more time at home on the weekends.

Finding the images for this blog post really helped me better understand where the nodes are that they are trying to radiate. I’m curious where the tattoos will be. These will be my first ever tattoos – hope this isn’t a gateway to getting more, although I’ve always thought getting an orange calla lily coming out of my port scar would be cool.

  • Becky

One Comment

  • Interesting info.

    Love you 💕

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