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Breast Cancer Therapy Technique at Florida Hospital Flagler Now Reduces Radiation Exposure

| August 15, 2013

Florida Hospital Flagler's Cancer Center. (FHF)

Florida Hospital Flagler’s Cancer Center. (FHF)

Florida Hospital Flagler now offers a new technique for breast cancer patients that reduces radiation exposure to the lungs and heart.

It’s called Prone Breast Board radiation therapy. It is unique in that patients lay on their stomachs with their breasts suspended, isolating the breasts and significantly decreasing the radiation exposure to the lungs and heart. (The video below describes how the therapy works.)

In traditional approaches to breast cancer radiation, patients lay on their backs. In some patients, this can inadvertently cause radiation damage to the lungs and heart while treating tumors in the breasts. This damage is concerning because it increases a patient’s overall risk for lung and heart disease.

“The purchase and implementation of this prone breast board is part of Florida Hospital Flagler’s commitment to continually expand on the services and technology we offer our patients,” said Alvaro Alvarez, MD, Radiation Oncologist at the Florida Hospital Flagler Cancer Center. “This represents the top-of-the-line technology available to treat breast cancer and we are proud to offer this to our patients.”

The March edition of the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that indicates that breast cancer patients treated with radiation therapy while lying on their backs are at higher risk for coronary artery disease. This is because chest radiation treatment can damage lining of blood vessels that supply the heart and to the heart itself, leading to coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attack. The same holds true for the lungs.

“According to the study,” the Times reported, “a 50-year-old woman with no cardiovascular risk factors has a 1.9 percent chance of dying of heart disease before she turns 80. Radiation treatment for breast cancer would increase that risk to between 2.4 percent and 3.4 percent, depending on how much radiation hits the heart.

Now, with Florida Hospital Flagler’s new approach to treating breast cancer, the increased risk of lung and heart damage, and the subsequent development of lung and heart disease, is significantly decreased.

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