Martha Jefferson Healthwise: Respiratory Gating

June 26, 213

Taking a deep breath during radiation treatment for cancer could help protect a patient's tissue and other healthy organs from being damaged. In this week's Martha Jefferson Healthwise report CBS19's Stephanie Satchell has more on a technique called respiratory gating.

If you're trying to fight breast cancer in your left breast or lung cancer, you may have heard of a method called respiratory gating. It deals with your breathing and tracks your motions while you're receiving radiation.

"With respiratory gating, the heart in some women is right underneath the ribs. If you have a beam of radiation that goes across the breast that might include the anterior part of the heart (the part that's right underneath the rib,)" said Dr. Sylvia Hendrix, Medical Director of Radiation Oncology, Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Without respiratory gating or taking a deep breath, there could be extra movement. That additional movement can cause other parts of your body that don't have tumors to receive radiation.

"We want to do everything we can to make the treatment as easy as possible during the course of treatment, but also limit the possibility that they might have long term side effects from radiation that we may not see for decades after they finish their treatment here," said Dr. Hendrix.

Dr. Hendrix says that can be done with a simple deep breath before radiation.

Taking a deep breath can move heart enough so that the healthy organ won't receive radiation.

"Respiratory gating optimizes the patients' position. The patient takes a deep breath and expands their chest essentially what they're doing is moving their breast and the area that we need to treat further away from the heart. So, it makes the treatment less toxic," said Dr. Hendrix.

The breath or movement is tracked by an infrared camera at the bottom of the chest.

"Let's say you're on the table. You're getting treatment and you get a tickle in your throat and you start coughing, it's a very simple process. The machine recognizes that you're not behaving normally and you won't be receiving treatment during that time. We'll let you calm down, get over your cough and once your wave pattern gets back to normal we'll get back on track," said Dr. Hendrix.

Dr. Hendrix says this technique allows treatment to be more accurate and reduce the chance of side effects in the future.

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