Radiation protection for heart

Southern Telegraph

Breast cancer patients undergoing treatment on their left side at Icon Cancer Centre in Rockingham are benefiting from an innovative technique that protects their heart during radiation therapy treatment.

The Deep Inspiration Breath Hold technique was a particular source of comfort for Rockingham-based primary school teacher Claire Watson, who has a history of heart disease in her family.

She was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer on her 44th birthday after finding a swollen area on her collarbone. After having surgery to remove the tumour, Ms Watson was referred to Icon Cancer Centre Rockingham for radiation therapy.

She used the DIBH technique, which involves holding a certain number of breaths for short bursts during the treatment, allowing the heart to move backwards into the chest while the breast is exposed to radiation.

“I was a little bit worried at first and wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to get my breathing correct. But the team talked me through it and I was able to have a lot of practice,” she said.

“Being able to watch the screen and know when to breathe and when to hold my breath made it so easy,” she said, “My dad had heart disease, so knowing I was protecting my heart was an extra comfort.

“If the centre wasn’t in Rockingham I would have had to travel over an hour in traffic.

“That would mean having to go part-time and changing my hours at work with the added stress of trying to get to your appointment on time and factoring in travel.”

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