Unintended cardiac irradiation during left-sided breast cancer radiotherapy

R B Goody, J O'Hare, K McKenna, L Dearey, J Robinson, P Bell, J Clarke, Seamus McAleer, J J A McAleer, J M O'Sullivan, G G Hanna

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12 Citations (Scopus)
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Objective: Cardiac irradiation during left-sided breast radiotherapy may lead to
deleterious cardiac side effects. Using image guided radiotherapy, it is possible
to exclude the heart from treatment fields and monitor reproducibility of virtual simulation (VS) fields at treatment delivery using electronic portal imaging (EPI). Retrospectively, we evaluate the incidence of cardiac irradiation at VS and subsequent unintended cardiac irradiation during treatment.

Methods: Patients receiving left-sided radiotherapy to the breast or chest wall,
treated with a glancing photon field technique during a four-month period, were
included. VS images and EPIs during radiotherapy delivery were visually assessed.
The presence of any portion of the heart within the treatment field at VS or during treatment was recorded. Central lung distance and maximum heart distance were recorded.

Results: Of 128 patients, 45 (35.1%) had any portion of the heart within the
planned treatment field. Of these, inclusion of the heart was clinically unavoidable in 25 (55.6%). Of those with no heart included in the treatment fields at VS, 41 (49.4%) had presence of the heart as assessed on EPI during treatment.

Conclusion: Unintended cardiac irradiation during left-sided breast radiotherapy treatment occurs in a sizeable proportion of patients.

Advances in knowledge: Despite the use of three-dimensional computed tomography simulation and cardiac shielding, sizeable proportions of patients receiving left-sided breast cancer radiotherapy have unintended cardiac irradiation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Radiology
Issue number1022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • Breast Cancer
  • Radiotherapy
  • Cardiac Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Medicine(all)


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