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Nationwide Trends in Heart-Sparing Techniques Utilized in Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer. Adv Radiat Oncol 2019;4(2):246-252



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2-s2.0-85063093988 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   29 Citations


PURPOSE: Radiation dose to the heart correlates with cardiac-related deaths and may partially diminish the benefit of radiation for breast cancer. This study assessed the current nationwide trends in heart-sparing techniques for breast cancer radiation.

METHODS AND MATERIALS: In November 2017, an institutional review board-approved survey was sent to radiation oncologists in the United States. Questions assessed demographics and the type and frequency of heart-sparing techniques. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and χ2 tests.

RESULTS: In total, 530 responses (13%) were obtained. Most physicians had practiced >15 years (46%), with most in a private setting (59%). Eighty-three percent of physicians offered prone positioning and/or deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH). This was more common in academic practice (P < .01). Seventy-three percent of physicians used heart-sparing techniques for more than three-fourths of left-sided patients. The most commonly used technique was DIBH, and 43% of physicians used the technique more than three-fourths of the time. Commonly used DIBH systems were Varian RPM (54%) and Vision RT/Align RT (31%). No increase in DIBH use was observed with regional nodal irradiation, and coverage of internal mammary chain nodes varied. Patient tolerance (78%) and cardiac-to-chest wall distance (72%) were the most common determinants of DIBH in left-sided patients. Twenty-three percent of physicians used DIBH for right-sided patients, with lung (64%) and heart sparing (46%) as the most common reasons for use. Lack of facilities was the most common reason not to use DIBH (61%).

CONCLUSIONS: Most respondents offer heart-sparing techniques for breast cancer radiation; this is more common in academic centers. DIBH is the most common technique across all practice settings. DIBH is much less commonly used in right-sided patients but is still used by >20% of practitioners, with lung and heart sparing cited as reasons for use. More data are needed to determine if and when this technique should be used in right-sided cases.

Author List

Desai N, Currey A, Kelly T, Bergom C


Tracy R. Kelly MD Associate Professor in the Radiation Oncology department at Medical College of Wisconsin