Last update: Aug. 5, 2019

External Radiotherapy

Very Low Risk for breastfeeding

Safe. Compatible.
Minimal risk for breastfeeding and infant.

Radiation therapy, alone or in combination with chemotherapy and surgery, is used in the treatment of cancer. It consists of irradiating in order to destroy cancer cells with high-energy x-rays or proton beams (ASCO 2016).
It can be external or via external beam, when it is administered from a device which is external to the body, or internal or brachytherapy, when radioactive material is introduced into the body, into the tumor or surrounding tissue.

This entry refers to EXTERNAL BEAM RADIOTHERAPY. Here, the radiation passes through the body leaving no radioactive imprint in the patient and is therefore not "radioactive", that is, it does not emit radiation (ASCO 2016).

There is no reason for a breastfeeding mother’s milk to be altered during the radiotherapy process, either in the breast, or another part of the body and it is not radioactive. It is possible, if the mother wishes and her clinical conditions and medication allow it, to breastfeed between radiotherapy sessions.

Radiotherapy makes the skin of the irradiated area more sensitive and delicate. That is why some authors advise against breastfeeding from the affected breast during radiation therapy (Johnson 2019, Shachar 2017).

After radiotherapy in the chest area, whether due to breast cancer or another neoproliferative process (eg Hodgkin lymphoma), once the process is cured, you can breastfeed from the healthy breast and also from the irradiated breast (Leal 2013, McCullough 2010 , Moran 2005, Tralins 1995, Higgins 1994, Varsos 1991 and Rodger 1989), but there is less frequency (25 to 50%) of breastfeeding in mothers who received irradiation in the breast, due to lower milk production and some biochemical change (Akhtar 2015 , Leal 2013, McCullough 2010, Moran 2005, Tralins 1995, Higgins 1994, Varsos 1991 and Rodger 1989), and/or the infant will not want to breastfeed from the irradiated side (Mohamad 2016), being possible to breastfeed from a single breast (Mohamad 2016).

Following cranial radiotherapy received years ago for cancer or childhood leukemia, lower milk production and a higher frequency of breastfeeding failure has been noted (Hall 2014, Follin 2013 and Johnston 2008), perhaps due to insufficient prolactin (Follin 2013), but it is recommended to attempt breastfeeding, advising the mother of the possibility of failure (Hall 2014 and Johnston 2008).

See below the information of this related product:


We do not have alternatives for External Radiotherapy since it is relatively safe.

Suggestions made at e-lactancia are done by APILAM´s pediatricians and pharmacists, and are based on updated scientific publications.
It is not intended to replace the relationship you have with your doctor but to compound it.

Jose Maria Paricio, Founder & President of APILAM/e-Lactancia

Your contribution is essential for this service to continue to exist. We need the generosity of people like you who believe in the benefits of breastfeeding.

Thank you for helping to protect and promote breastfeeding.

José María Paricio, founder of e-lactancia.

Other names

External Radiotherapy is also known as

External Radiotherapy in other languages or writings:


External Radiotherapy belongs to this group or family:


  1. Johnson HM, Mitchell KB. Breastfeeding and Breast Cancer: Managing Lactation in Survivors and Women with a New Diagnosis. Ann Surg Oncol. 2019 Jul 24. Abstract
  2. Shachar SS, Gallagher K, McGuire K, Zagar TM, Faso A, Muss HB, Sweeting R, Anders CK. Multidisciplinary Management of Breast Cancer During Pregnancy. Oncologist. 2017 Abstract
  3. Understanding Radiation Therapy. Fact Sheet. 2016 Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  4. Qué es la radioterapia. Hoja informativa. 2016 Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  5. Mohamad O, McFarlane M, Rahimi A. Absence of physiologic breast response to pregnancy and lactation after radiation therapy. Pract Radiat Oncol. 2016 Abstract
  6. Akhtar S, Youssef I, Soudy H, Elhassan TA, Rauf SM, Maghfoor I. Prevalence of menstrual cycles and outcome of 50 pregnancies after high-dose chemotherapy and auto-SCT in non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma patients younger than 40 years. Bone Marrow Transplant. 2015 Abstract
  7. Hall G, McGuire E. Milk supply related to childhood leukaemia treatment. Breastfeed Rev. 2014 Abstract
  8. Leal SC, Stuart SR, Carvalho Hde A. Breast irradiation and lactation: a review. Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2013 Abstract
  9. Follin C, Link K, Wiebe T, Moëll C, Björk J, Erfurth EM. Prolactin insufficiency but normal thyroid hormone levels after cranial radiotherapy in long-term survivors of childhood leukaemia. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2013 Abstract
  10. McCullough L, Ng A, Najita J, Janov A, Henderson T, Mauch P, Diller L. Breastfeeding in survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma treated with chest radiotherapy. Cancer. 2010 Abstract
  11. Johnston K, Vowels M, Carroll S, Neville K, Cohn R. Failure to lactate: a possible late effect of cranial radiation. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2008 Abstract
  12. Moran MS, Colasanto JM, Haffty BG, Wilson LD, Lund MW, Higgins SA. Effects of breast-conserving therapy on lactation after pregnancy. Cancer J. 2005 Abstract
  13. Tralins AH. Lactation after conservative breast surgery combined with radiation therapy. Am J Clin Oncol. 1995 Abstract
  14. Higgins S, Haffty BG. Pregnancy and lactation after breast-conserving therapy for early stage breast cancer. Cancer. 1994 Abstract
  15. Varsos G, Yahalom J. Lactation following conservation surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer. J Surg Oncol. 1991 Abstract
  16. Rodger A, Corbett PJ, Chetty U. Lactation after breast conserving therapy, including radiation therapy, for early breast cancer. Radiother Oncol. 1989 Abstract

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