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Breast Cancer Care: Protect Your Heart In One Breath

When it comes to breast cancer care, there are many things to consider.

What kind of treatment is best for you? What are the side effects of that treatment?

But there is also something else to consider: What can you and your treatment team do to protect your heart during breast cancer radiation therapy?

When it comes to breast cancer care, radiation therapy is a critical component. While it’s a highly effective treatment, it can also damage the heart.

In this blog, we’ll discuss deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH) — a technique that can protect women against heart damage during radiation treatments for breast cancer.

What is DIBH?

Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, is often combined with surgery and chemotherapy to provide the best possible outcomes for breast cancer patients.

But radiation treatments can affect healthy tissues and organs, too. People undergoing cancer treatment for the left breast are at an increased risk for heart damage.

That’s because the left breast is closer to the heart than the right breast. As a result, radiation therapy can deliver a dose of radiation to the heart, which can lead to long-term heart problems.

DIBH is a technique that protects the heart during radiation therapy.

How does DIBH work?

With DIBH, patients take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds before exhaling.

As air fills the lungs, the heart is pulled away from the inner surface of the chest and ribs and therefore pulled further away from the left breast.

When air fills their diaphragm — a large, dome-shaped muscle below the lungs — it pulls the heart away from the chest.

This reduces the amount of radiation the heart is exposed to. As long as the patient can hold their breath from 10 to 15 seconds during treatment, the heart is exposed to less radiation, and the incidence of heart complications decades down the line is dramatically reduced.

Patients are encouraged to practice the DIBH technique at home before treatment so they’re comfortable with it. They are also carefully coached on their breathing during treatment.

How new technology is making DIBH even more effective

DIBH is an effective technique for protecting the heart during radiation therapy, and new technology is making it even more precise and effective.

That technology combines a network of scans and sensors to map the patient’s body surface contour. If a patient takes a deep breath and suddenly can’t hold their breath, the network of sensors is triggered, and the machine will instantaneously turn off the radiation so the patient’s heart won’t be exposed.

This is an important safety measure, as it means that patients can get the full dose of radiation they need to treat their cancer while also protecting their heart.

Our Cancer Care Promise

At Tanner, we’re committed to providing the best possible care for our cancer patients. And that includes using the latest and most effective treatments available like DIBH.

To learn more about Tanner’s 3-Day Cancer Care Promise and the exceptional care you can expect at Tanner, visit TannerCancerCare.org.

Cancer Care, Tanner Medical Group, Breast Care

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