Good Samaritan Now Offering Heart Sparing Radiation Treatment For Breast Cancer Patients

Breast cancer patients who receive radiation to their left breast are at risk for increased cardiac morbidity and mortality in their lifetime. In order to avoid potential damage to a patient’s heart during treatment, Good Samaritan is introducing a breath-holding technique that reduces the impact to the heart during left-sided breast cancer treatment. This technique is called deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH) and Good Samaritan is the first hospital in the area to offer this heart-sparing technique to patients.

Deep inspiration breath hold is a radiation therapy technique where a patient takes a deep breath during treatment and holds their breath for a brief period while the radiation is being delivered. “In order to avoid radiation doses to the heart, we use the DIBH technique on patients who have left-sided breast cancer,” said Dr. Brian Gebhardt, Good Samaritan Radiation Oncologist. “This technique increases the physical separation between the heart and the chest wall, and minimizes the risk of late complications and ensures excellent outcomes for the patient.”

This inspiration technique gives the patient the ability to participate in their treatment while being expertly monitored during treatment delivery. The breath hold is for very short periods, typically 20 seconds or less, with breaks of normal breathing in between holds.

During a recent study at the University of North Carolina, patients who were treated using DIBH exhibited 0% radiation-induced abnormalities in blood flow to the heart six months after treatment. The DIBH treatment is completely non-invasive with no external markers or forced breath hold.

The DIBH technique is now a standard practice at Good Samaritan to ensure the safety of its patients “The DIBH technique allows us to deliver accurate radiation treatment to our patients while also decreasing the damage to their heart,” said Patricia Inyart, Radiation Oncology Manager. “Good Samaritan and the Radiation Oncology Department are constantly researching innovative and best practices for our patients, which is why we are the first in our region to offer this heart-sparing technique.”

The staff at Good Samaritan has been trained on the new technique and patients are given instructions on how to participate in the treatment. The equipment used includes positioning lasers, breath monitors and state-of-the-art software. The scans of the body show the therapists the location of the heart in relation to the breast which helps ensure safe, accurate treatment.

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