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Breast Cancer Treatment

If you have just been diagnosed with breast cancer, understanding the disease and the treatment options can be very confusing and overwhelming. After your diagnosis, you and your treatment team--which usually consists of your surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and possibly a plastic surgeon--will put together a treatment plan specific to your situation. Your treatment plan will be made up of one or more types of treatments that are intended to eradicate the local disease in the breast, and reduce the risk of the disease spreading elsewhere in your body. What type of treatment is recommended for you depends on several factors, including the stage of your disease.

Dr. Susan Boylan is a distinguished board-certified radiation oncologist with over 25 years of experience and has a particular interest in treating breast cancer.   Dr. Boylan is a member of the Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center Cancer Committee and the Breast Leadership Committee, which provide expert medical leadership to the Sentara Northern Virginia Comprehensive Breast Center. A compassionate and caring physician, she has been repeatedly recognized by Washingtonian magazine and Northern Virginia magazine as a “Top Doctor.”

Dr. Boylan leads the team at Potomac Radiation Oncology Center.  Radiation therapy, along with surgery, is used to treat the local or regional disease, typically within the breast and/or nearby lymph nodes.  Radiation therapy can be given after breast-preserving surgery to maximize the chance of cure, and is sometimes used after mastectomy for more advanced or high-risk disease. Treatments can range from 1 week to 7 weeks in duration, and can treat a portion of the breast or the entire breast and lymph nodes, depending on each patient's unique situation.

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WHAT TO EXPECT DURING RADIATION THERAPY

Breast and chest wall irradiation is usually well tolerated, and the side effects during treatment are relatively mild. You will typically develop a skin reaction during treatment that usually looks like a mild to moderate “sun-burn” of the skin of your breast or chest wall. You will be instructed in the appropriate skin care. You may also experience some fatigue towards the end of treatment, but this usually is not overwhelming. Most of our patients can go about their normal daily activities, or work full time throughout their treatment course. We encourage exercise as patients who do so regularly experience less fatigue.

Our affiliation with Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center gives our breast cancer patients access to Sentara’s Breast Cancer Navigator to assist in scheduling other medical appointments. For more resources on breast cancer, please visit:

Video - What to Expect


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