Source: The Age – Kate Hagan.
Patients with breast cancer are being coached to hold their breath while doctors deliver radiation treatment, in a technique that may virtually eliminate long-term risks from radiation to the heart.
Epworth Hospital radiation oncologist Andrew See said radiation was an effective treatment for breast cancer but was linked to a small increased risk of cardiac complications including heart attacks in the years to follow.
He said the new technique helped minimise radiation to the heart and lungs by delivering a dose only when patients held their breath, which expanded their chest and pushed it away from their heart.
Dr See said women being treated for left-sided breast cancer at the Epworth hospital were being invited to use the technique, which would soon be part of a clinical trial to run at multiple hospitals around Australia.
‘‘The heart is slightly inclined to the left-hand side so the major chamber and coronary vessels can come close to the radiation field,’’ he said.
‘‘Rates of heart injury were very high in the 1970s and 80s because the treatments were quite crude and beams used to shoot through the entire cardiac silhouette.
‘‘With modern treatments the heart dose is quite low but it’s not zero. With this new technique, we can bridge that gap and reduce the low dose to almost a zero dose.’’
Dr See said the technique had been used successfully overseas but was relatively new to Australia…read more.