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Diabetes

Does breast radiation affect blood sugar

01/23/2008

Question:

I am going to start radation and I would like to find out if it affects your blood sugar? I am a type 1.

Answer:

It is very hard to generalize about this - there are issues related to the diabetes, to direct effects of the radiation, to effects of the radiation on appetite depending on where the radiation is directed.  The radiation causes tissue destruction which can in turn cause inflammation.  If it is strictly local radiation to a primary site for breast cancer, I would not expect much of an effect.  In somebody whose appetite is affected by the radiation, they may need to look out for decreased food intake, decreasing insulin requirements and some risk for hypoglycemia.  If there were an unusual amount of local tissue damage and inflammation, that effect might predominate and cause increasing insulin requirements. 

The best advice I can give is to be mindful that any of these effects are possible and to test more often - some people will feel comfortable making their own medication adjustments during this experience, others may need more telephone access to their diabetes care providers to assist in adapting to this situation.  Good luck and feel free to write back with other questions.

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Response by:

Robert M Cohen, MD Robert M Cohen, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati