First Wodonga cancer patient uses Deep Inspiration Breath Hold

PIONEERS: Veronica Buckley demonstrates Deep Inspiration Breath Hold, as Murray Valley Radiation Oncology Centre's Eddy Ong looks on. Miss Buckley is the centre's first patient to use this technique. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG
PIONEERS: Veronica Buckley demonstrates Deep Inspiration Breath Hold, as Murray Valley Radiation Oncology Centre's Eddy Ong looks on. Miss Buckley is the centre's first patient to use this technique. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG

AN EMERGING breast cancer treatment is helping a Border patient reduce the radiation risks to her heart – all through her own breath control.

Veronica Buckley is using Deep Inspiration Breath Hold during her treatment at Murray Valley Radiation Oncology Centre, the Wodonga clinic’s first client to try this technique.

It involves patients holding their breath during their daily treatment to increase the distance between the heart and the left breast, decreasing the former’s exposure to radiation.

Miss Buckley, who was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast late last year and underwent surgery, said clinic staff explained the technique to her beforehand.

The newer technique now decreases the dose even more significantly. We try to spare the heart as much as we could.

Dr Eddy Ong

“You’ve got to hold your breath about 15 seconds,” she said.

“Not every single time, but that's the longest you have to hold your breath. 

“I said, ‘Yeah, I can do that’.”

Murray Valley radiation oncologist Eddy Ong described Deep Inspiration Breath Hold as a “step forward” in modern treatments.

“The newer technique now decreases the dose even more significantly,” Dr Ong said. “We try to spare the heart as much as we could.”

Patients wear video goggles that allow them to control their depth of breathing by visualising the breath hold.

Now in her second week of radiation treatment, Miss Buckley said the method had not been difficult for her.

“You get to know when to breathe, it gets a little bit easier each time, or for me it has anyway,” she said. “It's pretty straightforward; they guide you through it and everything.”

Dr Ong expected the breath hold to become more common over time.

“It's been used in Australia for, I think, more than five years now in some centres,” he said.

“In future we might adopt this technique to other areas, like even the right side of the breast, reduce the dose to the liver.”

Miss Buckley, 54, said a scheduled mammogram picked up her cancer initially.

“I just went for my regular mammogram, every two years, they rang me up to remind me,” she said.

“I couldn't feel a lump or anything like that, I didn't think there was anything wrong.”