Fighting breast cancer can be physically and emotionally draining for patients. However, a local survivor attributes much of her success in the battle to a relatively new technique.
Cari Marshall was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2013. She had a lumpectomy to remove a tumor, which was followed by radiation therapy.
During radiation, Marshall used a breathing technique that she said greatly improved her results and outlook.
“I took a situation that's devastating at first and said, ‘OK, what can I do to make this OK?'' Marshall said.
At 21st Century Oncology in Las Vegas, oncologist Dr. Brian Lawenda lies his patients down on a table for radiation therapy and coaches them in the deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH) technique.
“We have a patient take a deep breath in, and what happens is it expands the chest and the amount of lung that gets radiated is often times less. The amount of heart [radiated] would be less because the heart falls back out of our radiation field,” Lawenda said.
Lawenda said every dose of radiation the heart receives increases a patient's risk of future heart complications by more than 7 percent.
“For Cari, we did two comparison plans, and it turned out that when she did do the deep inspiration technique, the amount of lung was reduced in terms of the radiation field,” Lawenda said.
Marshall has been free of cancer for more than a year. She's now a life coach for patients going through radiation and chemotherapy.
“What it [DIBH] allowed me to do is become more engaged in my treatment, and so it was empowering for me to feel that I was doing something to help better the outcome of my treatment,” Marshall said.
While every cancer patients requires her or his own treatment plan, Lawenda said the DIBH technique was right for Marshall and it may prove beneficial for others.
Studies have found the DIBH technique can reduce doses of radiation to the heart and lungs by 50 percent.
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