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Radiation Oncology Blog

A Blog for Radiation Oncology
Keyword: breast cancer

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.

Watch Andrea M. Abbott, M.D., MS, surgical oncologist at MUSC, discuss National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with News 2's Octavia Mitchell.  Dr. Abbott talks about breast cancer statistics, risk factors, and the importance of early detection. 


Breast Cancer Awareness Month is recognized nationwide during the month of October.  It is an annual health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure.  The national campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer and their loved ones. 

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that develops from cells in the breast.  More commonly breast cancer either begins in the cells of the lobules, which are the milk-producing glands, or the ducts, the passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple.  Less commonly, breast cancer can begin in the stromal tissues, which include the fatty and fibrous connective tissues of the breast.  Over time, cancer cells can invade nearby healthy breast tissue and make their way into the underarm lymph nodes, small organs that filter out foreign substances in the body.  If cancer cells get into the lymph nodes, they then have a pathway into other parts of the body. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after skin cancer in the United States.  It can occur in both men and women, but it is very rare in men.  Each year there are about 2,300 new cases of breast cancer in men and about 230,000 new cases in women. 

MUSC Hollings Cancer Center's Comprehensive Breast Care Program is the only South Carolina breast center accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) and also affiliated with a National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer center.  Our multidisciplinary team works together to treat the physical and emotional needs of each breast cancer patient, providing guidance from diagnosis through treatment and evaluation.  We review individual cases during our regular Breast Tumor Board Meetings, make recommendations, and schedule appointments to accommodate the patient’s comfort and convenience. 


To learn more about the services offered at Hollings Cancer Center’s Comprehensive Breast Care Program, please click here.