Radiotherapy to the left breast could potentially be associated with risk of future heart problems, if care is not taken to exclude the heart from the radiation beam.
The Kent Oncology Centre has introduced the voluntary breath-hold technique, where the radiotherapy beam is only switched on while the patient takes a deep breath and holds it for approximately 15 seconds. This has been shown to significantly reduce the dose to the heart by pushing the heart away from the radiation field.
This technique is of direct benefit to patients in whom radiation dose to the heart cannot be avoided by other means. The breath-hold technique, although very cost-effective, does need specialised equipment – such as more efficient cameras in the radiotherapy treatment room – for which funding was gratefully received from Breast Cancer Kent.