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Extra heart protection for GCUH breast cancer patients

 Patient Claire Holland undergoing treatment using the DIBH equipment at GCUH.
Patient Claire Holland undergoing treatment using the DIBH equipment at GCUH.

New technology at Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH) is protecting patient’s hearts from radiation doses during breast cancer treatment.

Radiation Oncology Centres (ROC) in collaboration with Gold Coast Health’s GCUH is one of the first facilities in Queensland currently using the Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) technique.

DIBH is delivered using an innovative device that integrates with the treatment machine and results in precise radiation therapy benefiting patients with left-sided breast cancer.

While undergoing radiation treatment, the patient is attached to a snorkel device which monitors their breathing.  At the specified time, the snorkel device signals to the patient when to take a deep breath so the lungs fill with air and the heart is moved away from the chest wall, therefore away from the vicinity of the radiation beams.

Acting General Manager of Cancer Access and Support Services at GCUH, Lisa Roberts said treatment options and new innovations are focused on improving the quality of survival of patients by reducing long term side effects, not just addressing the cancer.

“The DIBH technique expands the lungs and shifts the heart away from the radiation beams, reducing the amount of radiation exposure to the heart,” Ms Roberts said.

“Quality of life is the most important thing we can provide for our patients after treating their cancer.

“Breast cancer patients are living much longer, so our focus is shifting from pure treatment to quality of survival and minimising the long term side effects of treatment.”

ROC CEO Jim Frantzis said the introduction of the technique to the Gold Coast provided significant advantages for breast cancer patients.

“At ROC we are committed to providing exceptional cancer care and DIBH is one example of our dedication to providing the latest technology and treatment techniques to more and more Australians,” Mr Frantzis said.

48 year old Claire Holland is the first Gold Coast Health patient to be treated with DIBH technique and received her last course of treatment using this week.

“I was a little bit anxious at the thought of having the snorkel but the team guided me through it and we practiced using the device over several appointments,” Mrs Holland said.

“We have a family history of heart disease with my brother passing away from Cardiomyopathy 30 years ago, so to know my heart would be less likely to be damaged was very comforting.”


Last updated 20 Dec 2016