The position in which breast cancer patients are administrated radiation therapy may be more important than originally thought, according to a trial conducted at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC). The research revealed that patients who were treated lying on their stomach in the prone position had more effective results.
A new modified treatment board was developed by Julia White, from OSUCCC, in order to enable patients to be more comfortable while they receive treatment lying on their stomach. In the prone position, the breast tissue falls away from the walls of the chest, which allows the radiation to better target the cancer cells. Until now, patients would commonly be treated lying on their backs in the supine position. Even though White doesn’t refute its effectiveness, she believes that the change in the position may reduce the risks of damaging healthy heart and lung tissue.
“The prone board allows gravity to pull the breast away from the chest wall, and create a more uniform shape that we can distribute the dose of radiation through evenly,” said White, director of Breast Radiation Oncology at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center. “With this board, we can keep the radiation in front of the ribs, so we don’t even need to go into the thoracic cavity and skim the lung and heart.”
In order to enable the treatment in the prone position, a bean or vac bag customized to body shape is given to each patient, which is used to immobilize the arms, while the patient receives radiation. The modified board is also able to extend off the treatment table, as it provides radiation beam space, to reach the patients all around.
“By turning a woman over onto her stomach, we can treat the breast underneath the board and reduce the risk of the treatment leaving permanent effects. We found that we are able to have a really good rate of a good cosmetic outcome in 80-to-90 percent of the women who go through this treatment,” White explained, as she said that women who are more likely to benefit from the prone position are the ones who are diagnosed early and who decided to have a lumpectomy.