Answer to Question #11501 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
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 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.