Radiation therapy has been one of the most effective ways to treat cancer. Studies have shown, however, that patients with early stages of breast cancer are at higher risk of heart and lung problems as much as 20 years after treatment. This especially rings true for patients with cancer in their left breast because of the proximity to the lungs and heart.
As a radiation oncologist, it is critical to be aware of this and adjust accordingly. Nowadays, the majority of patients with breast cancer are cured, so it is important to find alternatives to eliminate long-term effects from radiation therapy.
One popular method used by radiation oncologist has been prone-position radiation treatment for patients with breast cancer. This drastically reduces the amount of radiation to the heart with similar results for treating breast cancer. There is about an 88% decrease in the amount of lung tissue irradiated in the right and left breast. This sort of treatment is only for cancer that has not spread to other portions of the body. There is no affectivity of the treatment while protecting chest, lung, and heart tissue from excessive exposure.
Patients fighting breast cancer should ask their radiation oncologist about this type of treatment, and if it is available for them. This will allow for continued treatment paired with a long and prosperous life after the radiation therapy is behind you.