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Reduce Radiation Exposure During Cancer Treatments

Breast cancer continues to be the most common form of cancer to affect American women — roughly one in eight will receive this diagnosis during their lifetime. While treatment is highly individualized and there are many options available, breast conserving surgery followed by radiation remains an effective treatment and is the standard of care for many women.

“When using radiation therapy to treat the left breast, which is near the heart, special care must be taken to reduce unnecessary exposure of the heart to the radiation beam,” said Patrice McGowan, MD, radiation oncologist and medical director of the Radiation Oncology Department at Samaritan Health Services. “With the introduction of a new technique called deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH) to our cancer program, we can better control the accuracy and timing of the radiation treatment.”

What Can I Expect with DIBH?

The technique requires taking deep breaths during treatment through a mouth piece. Patients are expected to hold each breath cycle for up to 20 seconds. This pattern is repeated. This causes the lungs to fill with air, which moves the area that is receiving radiation away from the heart.

Is DIBH Right for Me?

If you’ve received a left breast cancer diagnosis, talk with your health care team about DIBH and whether you’re a candidate for this type of treatment.

“DIBH is a powerful and precise way to make sure the radiation beam accurately treats the cancer yet minimizes risk to other nearby organs,” said Dr. McGowan. “This can and will be utilized in other cancers as our program expands.”

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