Answer to Question #11501 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Medical and Dental Patient Issues — Therapy - Radiation Oncology

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:

Q

Is it safe for a woman to breast-feed her two-month-old child while undergoing external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT) for a brain tumor?

A

A woman who undergoes EBRT will not be radioactive when her daily treatment is completed. This would be different for a woman receiving treatment by means of an injection of radioactive material.

The dosimetrist who develops the treatment plan for the brain tumor patient would use his or her skills to design the treatment fields to minimize radiation dose to surrounding tissues of the patient, such as the breast. The dosimetrist could use conventional three-dimensional treatment planning techniques or intensity-modulated radiation therapy beams, being careful not to use a vertex field which would aim the beam from the top of the patient's head downward toward her toes.

It is key to remember that a patient undergoing EBRT is not radioactive, and any scattered radiation dose from the beams used in her treatment should be minimal. Breast-feeding her child would be safe.

Jacqueline Emrich, PhD, DABR

Editor's note: This answer addresses risks from radiation only. Chemotherapy or other drugs, however, may make it unsafe to breast-feed. Discussing this with your radiation oncologist is recommended.

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 30 March 2016. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.