Radiation therapy for left-sided breast cancers confers a measurable dose of radiation to the heart, which is located on the left side of the chest. When radiation therapy comes in contact with the heart, coronary artery disease becomes a long-term risk for patients. Many patients with early stage breast cancer will be long-term survivors, for these patients it is especially important to lower morbidity associated with late treatment.

Deep Inspiration Breath Hold is a new technique of radiation delivery that has shown to decrease the dose of radiation therapy to heart. In this technique, the patient takes in a deep breath of air and holds their breath for 15 to 22 seconds. As the lungs expand with air, the heart is naturally pushed down and away from the chest wall, and subsequently, the left breast. The physical displacement of the heart from the treatment area results in lower heart doses during the course of radiation therapy, specifically left-sided breast cancers. The degree to which the heart is displaced from the chest wall is defined at the time of consultation and varies based on an individual’s anatomy and lung capacity. During the administration of radiation therapy, a patient’s treatment position and breathing are monitored in real time to ensure accuracy of treatment delivery.

MUSC Radiation Oncology now offers this technique to all appropriate patients with left-sided breast cancers as a means of lowering long-term treatment related cardiac morbidity. The physician will determine if an individual patient is a candidate for the Deep Inspiration Breath Hold technique during treatment planning.