More people are surviving cancer thanks to less invasive surgeries, better chemotherapy and more accurate radiation treatments. Better accuracy makes radiation safer for patients like breast cancer patients who can suffer side effects like inflammation in the lining of the lung. New technology is putting the radiation only where it's needed.
Every day, Monday through Friday for six weeks Nicole Fournil has radiation therapy for breast cancer. "So far I feel good." Nicole's treatment looks like standard radiation, but it's not. "You can turn the beam on and off as the patient breathes." Dr. Christopher Serago says that's important because many structures in your body, including the breast, move when you breathe. So in order for doctors using standard radiation to hit the entire target, they have to treat an area large enough to account for the movement of respiration. This means radiation will hit healthy breast tissue and maybe even the heart or lungs. The new treatment, called gated radiation, synchronizes to your breathing pattern. It fires beams only when you inhale or exhale. "This means that the treatments are going to be more specific," says Dr. Laura Vallow or Mayo Clinic. More specific because doctors can target the area with a smaller beam, reducing the dose of radiation to surrounding tissue.
After Nicole's daily treatments, she enjoys crosswords, in french, with her husband Jean Pierre. and Nicole's grateful that gated radiation is likely not harming other parts of her body. "Every day I thank God that I can enjoy life and be here with my husband."
Gated radiation may also be used for other cancers such as lung, liver or stomach. Dr. Vallow also says that standard radiation therapy is very effective, but gated technology is one step ahead in reducing side effects of radiation.