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Breast cancer radiotherapy reduces the risk of cancer recurrence and death. However, it usually involves some radiation exposure of the heart and analyses of randomised trials have shown that it can increase the risk of heart disease. Estimates of the absolute risks of radiation-related heart disease are needed to help oncologists plan each individual woman's treatment. The risk for an individual woman varies according to her estimated cardiac radiation dose and her background risk of ischaemic heart disease in the absence of radiotherapy. When it is known, this risk can then be compared with the absolute benefit of the radiotherapy. At present, many UK cancer centres are already giving radiotherapy with mean heart doses of less than 3 Gy and for most women the benefits of the radiotherapy will probably far outweigh the risks. Technical approaches to minimising heart dose in breast cancer radiotherapy include optimisation of beam angles, use of multileaf collimator shielding, intensity-modulated radiotherapy, treatment in a prone position, treatment in deep inspiration (including the use of breath-hold and gating techniques), proton therapy and partial breast irradiation. The multileaf collimator is suitable for many women with upper pole left breast cancers, but for women with central or lower pole cancers, breath-holding techniques are now recommended in national UK guidelines. Ongoing work aims to identify ways of irradiating pan-regional lymph nodes that are effective, involve minimal exposure of organs at risk and are feasible to plan, deliver and verify. These will probably include wide tangent-based field-in-field intensity-modulated radiotherapy or arc radiotherapy techniques in combination with deep inspiratory breath-hold, and proton beam irradiation for women who have a high predicted heart dose from intensity-modulated radiotherapy.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.clon.2015.06.007

Type

Journal article

Journal

Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol)

Publication Date

11/2015

Volume

27

Pages

621 - 629

Keywords

Breast cancer radiotherapy, cardiac-sparing breast radiotherapy, long-term effects, radiation-related heart disease, Breast Neoplasms, Female, Heart, Heart Diseases, Humans, Radiation Injuries, Radiotherapy, Radiotherapy Dosage, Risk, United Kingdom