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How advanced tracking technology and deep breathing are making breast cancer treatment safer at Lutheran

Deep inspiration breath hold minimizes risk of radiation exposure to the heart

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (May 31, 2018) – The instruction sounds simple enough, “take a deep breath and hold it.” But for some Lutheran Cancer Center patients undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer, this rather routine bodily function combined with advanced technology may one day help them avoid unintended heart problems caused by a treatment delivered to save their life years earlier.

When radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is deemed to be the most appropriate treatment for patients with tumors in the left breast, the radiation beam that’s administered can damage the heart and even lead to death in the future. To address this potential concern, physicians with Radiation Oncology Associates in the comprehensive cancer center on the Lutheran Hospital campus are turning to deep inspiration breath hold to minimize the risk. Using highly advanced software and the patient’s own breathing pattern, radiation can now be administered only when the heart is out of the line of fire.

“We are getting much better at treating patients in ways that target what’s wrong today without creating new health issues tomorrow,” said Mark Ranck, MD, Radiation Oncology Associates. “Those of us who make up the Lutheran Caner Center team are dedicated to offering patients every option available to maximize outcomes.”

As the name suggests, deep inspiration breath hold involves having the patient breathe in and hold it. The expansion of the lungs pushes the heart down and inwards, which removes it from the path of the radiation delivered by a TrueBeam™ linear accelerator equipped with surface tracking technology. Software detects exactly when it is safe to administer the targeted dose of radiation to the patient. 

Earlier this spring, the Lutheran Comprehensive Breast Center became the first in the region to receive full accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers – a program administered by the American College of Surgeons. This accreditation process challenges breast cancer centers to enhance the care they provide by addressing patient-centered needs and measuring quality against national standards.


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