Breathing Technique Protects Heart in Patients With Left-Sided Breast Cancer

DES MOINES, Iowa –It's a club no one wants to join. "No matter who you are or how you come about this diagnosis, it's a surprise,” said Judy Quick.

She was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in January. "It was found on a routine mammogram. It was the first time I opted for the 3D digital," she said.

Since the cancer was in her left breast, her doctor had another concern. Dr. Arshin Sheybani, a Radiation Oncologist at John Stoddard Cancer Center, said, "They compared women that had left sided breast cancer to those that had right sided breast cancers, and both groups had radiation. They found that ones that had left sided breast cancer had a small but significant increased risk of heart disease thirty plus years after their treatment."

Now, left-sided breast cancer patients at John Stoddard Cancer Center use what's called deep inspiration breath hold during radiation. "We have the patient take a deep breath in. It pulls the tissue away from their heart and away from their lungs, so we can spare those critical structures and they get a lot less does, if any dose to those structures," said Radiation Therapist Brittany Overton.

Technology called AlignRT by Vision RT makes sure the radiation is delivered to the right spot every treatment. Dr. Sheybani said, "What Vision RT does, it gives us a mapping of the patient's surface, so we make sure that patient is taking the same breath every time for the treatment."

The goal is to make sure patients treated for breast cancer don't have to worry about heart disease down the road because of it.

As for Quick, she said she feels great. "I will tell you, you'll never feel the same. Things are different. You look at things differently, but I feel very humbled by all the people how have walked this path before me, humbled, inspired, blessed to be feeling well.”