Safety and Comfort for Enhanced Breast Care Patients

Advanced Technology Limits Exposure to Heart and Lungs

Patients with early-stage breast cancer who require whole breast radiation to eliminate tumors have traditionally been treated in the supine position, face-up.

To reduce unwanted radiation exposure to nearby organs and tissues, particularly the heart and lungs, Community Medical Center has introduced prone breast radiation therapy — new cancer fighting technology that treats breast cancer in the prone position, or face down.

The Pivotal ™ Prone Breast Care System by Varian Medical Systems positions patients on a comfortable, specially designed table that frees the breast from the body so that it can be more easily isolated for radiation treatment. In addition to sparing organs and the skin from damage, the radiation in prone breast therapy is distributed more evenly, consistently and accurately.

“We are using prone position radiation therapy in tandem with other technologies such as IGRT (Image Guided Radiation Technology) and 3-D that allow us to shape and target radiation more precisely,” says Rajesh Iyer, M.D., Board Certified Radiation Oncologist and Chair, Department of Radiation Oncology. “By sparing healthy tissue from radiation, we can reduce side effects and help patients get through their treatments without any disruptions.”

The heart is especially vulnerable to radiation damage when the left breast is treated because of its close proximity — and can be at risk for future disease. The prone breast position is most often used when radiating left breast cancer, although it can be used for treatment in both left and right breast cancer patients.

Dr. Iyer notes that some women, especially those with large breasts, experience skin fold issues when undergoing radiation face up. “The side effects can be so painful that the treatment schedule may be disrupted. Through prone breast radiation, we can eliminate the skin fold and associated side effects,” says Dr. Iyer. Prone breast radiation therapy has been found to be especially useful for women with large breasts, although there are some patients for whom this approach may not be appropriate, such as those requiring lymph node radiation therapy. Other factors such as tumor location and internal organ structure must be considered when deciding whether to use the prone or supine position.