Deep inspiration breath hold


Deep inspiration breath hold is a treatment technique for breast cancer patients that minimises radiation exposure to the heart. Epworth Radiation Oncology is one of small number of Australian providers who offer the technique.

The method requires patients with left-sided breast cancer to hold their breath while treatment is administered - hence the name Deep Inspiration Breath Hold. Taking a deep breath in, increases the amount of air in the lungs and also the distance between the heart and the area of the breast receiving radiation treatment. Increasing the distance between the radiation beams and the heart reduces the subsequent potential risk of heart injury that may present three to five years after treatment.

Patient video

An informative video for breast cancer patients, their families and carers.

Video by Epworth Radiation Oncology, presented by Dr Bronwyn King.

How it works


The procedure involves placing infrared markers on the patient (refer to image), which are used to measure the movement of the chest with each breath. The movement is tracked to provide a trace of the patient’s breathing pattern. This pattern is then projected onto a large ceiling mounted screen in the treatment room (image attached) providing real-time feedback, enabling the patient to self regulate their breathing during treatment. The system is directly linked to the treatment machine (linear accelerator) and only allows the radiation treatment to be delivered when the chest is in the correct position (refer other screen shot of breathing trace). The procedure typically takes ten minutes, with each individual breath hold lasting less than 30 seconds. The method is particularly important for patients with existing cardiac risk factors, such as smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol or those with a family history of heart disease.

The treatment has been very well received by breast cancer patients. Patients have noted a sense of relief to be able to minimise later health risks while remaining focused on the primary cancer treatment. With few centres offering the technology, many patients actively seek treatment at Epworth Radiation Oncology, as well as specialists across Epworth HealthCare and abroad recommending the treatment technology to their breast cancer patients.

In an interview with The Age Epworth Radiation Oncologist Andrew See said "with modern treatments the heart dose is quite low but it’s not zero. With this new technique, we can bridge that gap and reduce the low dose to almost a zero dose."

For more information contact Epworth Radiation Oncology on 03 9936 8277.