Turning breast cancer radiation treatment upside down

CORP20160384_01_Prone_breast_blog_largeWhen it comes to breast cancer radiation treatment, position matters.

Ohio State doctors are flipping some patients over from their backs (the traditional position) to their stomachs for the treatment.

How does it work?

Patients lie on a new type of breast treatment board that has a gap between the top and bottom of a patient’s chest, allowing the breast to hang down. This way, the radiation targets the cancer better.

Bean bags (called “vac bags”) help immobilize their arms above their heads on the modified board, developed with the help of Julia White, MD, of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

CORP20160384_Prone_Breast_Board_blog_smallWhat are the benefits?

The radiation is administered more precisely using the prone breast board, keeping the radiation in front of the ribs and reducing the slight risk of damage to healthy heart and lung tissue.

For some women, the change lessens their side effects while going through radiation, says Dr. White, director of Breast Radiation Oncology at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center.

The modified board is effective for women who caught their breast cancer early, are having a lumpectomy and want to preserve as much of the breast as possible, she says. Applying the radiation evenly throughout the breast helps preserve its appearance.

Studies show that only 60-70 percent of patients have a good cosmetic outcome with traditional radiation therapy. But using the prone position has increased those odds favorably, providing a good cosmetic outcome in 80-90 percent of women.

Find out about more cutting-edge breast cancer treatments. And watch how receiving radiation treatment while lying on her stomach reassured patient Kim Doran of New Albany, whose family has a history of heart disease: