Breath deep, hold, save your heart during radiation treatment

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HOUSTON - So, you've been diagnosed with breast cancer and must undergo radiation treatment. Take a deep breath.  No, really. That simple task could help protect your heart during therapy.

"It's been increasingly recognized that if you give radiation to the heart, that's not a good thing," said Benjamin Smith, MD, associate professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The Deep Inspiration Breath Hold,or DIBH for short, involves holding your breath for 30 to 40-seconds while the radiation is delivered. When you take a deep breath, the heart moves down and back away from the chest. The separation creates enough space to protect the heart from radiation that could lead to heart disease or other forms of cancer later in life.

"We will plan their radiation on a CAT scan, which is acquired with them holding their breath, and then for their daily treatments, patients also hold their breath, and that's actually what activates the radiation machine and turns it on," said Smith, "So the beam only turns on when the patient is holding their breath and the heart is therefore away from the path of the radiation beam."

The great thing about this technique is that it's easy, and doctors estimate the DIBH process should be effective on 75% of breast cancer patients. Heartwarming news, in the fight against breast cancer.