• Radiation near the heart.

    Asked by 4Boysmom on Saturday, June 2, 2018

    Radiation near the heart.

    I’ve been asked to do a trial of radiation before surgery and after for a total of 5 weeks daily and I read that radiation in the breast near the heart may not be recommended due to possible damage. Anyone one have experience with this and could it be safe if it an narrow beam. I did ask my Dr and he said that we’ll talk about it more when I get closer to my end of chemo. Thank y’all for all the great advice.

    13 Answers from the Community

    13 answers
    • geekling's Avatar

      Dont wait to discuss your concerns. That is a control mechanism that doctors use to overcome any of your objections to this or to that.

      There ought to be a general outline of treatment prior to its commencement.

      I would do a little research on my particular health challenge (which you have, amazingly, begun by asking a general question here) and then I would quietly get a 2nd opinion prior to agreeing to anything.

      But that is just me. I actually got 8 opinions before submitting to treatment and spent months getting those opinions. Again, individuals do different things. I did not have any breast cancer.

      I have no doubt that women who were closer in diagnosis to you than was I will have something to say on the matter.

      Best wishes

      over 1 year ago
    • Ejourneys' Avatar

      There are several ways to deal with radiation near the heart:

      1. Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). My tumor was in my left breast, which meant radiation would be near my heart. IMRT is more fine-tuned than regular radiation in that it reduces the dosage as the beam gets near the heart, to protect both heart and lung. I received radiation in 11 separate fields, but the number of fields will differ depending on tumor location. More info at

      2. Breath-hold technique. This uses the breath to help reduce radiation to the heart. I was given a gated breathing test to see if this technique applied to me. (It didn't.) More info at

      3. Radiation therapy in a prone position. There's a special table for this. Lying face-down means the breast hangs down, increasing distance from the heart. I discussed this with my radiation oncologist, who said it's mainly applicable when one has large or heavy breasts. More info at

      Discuss these with your radiation oncologist. (You can discuss with your medical oncologist, too, but the radiation oncologist will have more info.)

      My radiation center has a very helpful walk-through video of the radiation process:

      over 1 year ago
    • LiveWithCancer's Avatar

      If you're going to have the radiation for 5 weeks, I am going to guess that the strength of the beam is very low. At least from what my radiation oncologist told me, he could have given mine (to a supraclavicle lymph node) in 5 doses, 15 doses (what he chose), or 30 doses. He said I would be getting the same amount of radiation in the end, regardless of which treatment option we went with. I had originally gone in wanting the 5 doses, but he wouldn't do it. It was too much radiation all at one time, he said.

      If your radiation oncologist is really good, I do know that they are getting much better at hitting just the tumor and very little surrounding tissue. Do you go to a large medical center where they have the latest equipment?

      On the other hand, I also have read that radiation too close to the heart can be dangerous. I wouldn't think the radiation oncologist would be willing to even try it if it is too dangerous for you. (I trust doctors a whole lot more than some folks here do - I guess I have been very fortunate and have had doctors worthy of my trust.)

      If you're really concerned and don't feel like your oncologists are giving you the whole picture, I would definitely go for a second opinion. Even if you DO trust them, it might ease your mind to get a second opinion.

      Good luck!!

      over 1 year ago
    • cllinda's Avatar

      I had seven weeks of radiation on my left breast. I had no problems with it.

      But i can understand why you are thinking this way. Every step along the way comes up with more questions. Is there a nurse navigator that you can talk to about your concerns? Or get a second opinion.

      Hugs to you as you continue your journey.

      over 1 year ago
    • carm's Avatar

      IMRT is the recommended radiotherapy for the left side of the chest. Usually a 3D-Conformal dose is done, and then from that it will demonstrate what percentage of the heart will be effected by EBRT. Once that calculation is done it is usually recommended the radiotherapy be IMRT. I am an oncology nurse and actually I used to work with BC-BS AIM/Wellpoint calculating and approving these doses. You have nothing to fear. Best of luck to you.

      over 1 year ago
    • BarbarainBham's Avatar

      4BoysMom, how recent was the information you read? Even in 2002, I was told my left breast would be radiated across the breast from each side to minimize radiation exposure to my heart.

      If you are going to a clinic or doctor who is on top of the latest treatment options, you should trust his expertise. If you want to get a second opinion, here's a list of NIH-associated Cancer Centers by state with phone numbers to make an appointment.

      cancer.gov is the website for the (NIH) National Cancer Institute and may be a good resource for you. I also enjoy reading from the Mayo Clinic patient information site. Best wishes.

      over 1 year ago
    • PaulineJ's Avatar

      I ended up with open heart surgery for tumors Jan.2014.Radiation was from Oct.to Dec of 2012 .I was told there were multi tumors witch is rare just a week ago from the cardiologist after the surgeon told me he found 4 in Jan..I was fighting for an ultra sound for 9 months,bfore they sent to to one hosp. in Nov.and the surgeon didn't want to do the surgery witch i was never told why and lied in saying they wanted me to have a second opinion so They sent me to another and ended up havinf surgery in Jan.2014.

      They never gave me a choice on anything .Fun to have doctors like that.

      over 1 year ago
    • msesq's Avatar

      My radiation oncologist used computer imaging and all sorts of equations to make sure I had no heart damage. This was important to me as I was on Herceptin which can also damage the heart. I was assured the only thing that could be damaged was a tiny part of my lung and it wouldn’t be noticeable. So far so good, I finished radiation December 31, 2014.

      over 1 year ago
    • fiddler's Avatar

      I had radiation on the right breast. There's scarring in my lung. 3 years after radiation I had a heart attack. While radiation may not have been the cause of the heart attack, the chemo delivery tube went to within an inch of the heart to deliver the chemicals full strength right into the old ticker. So there's that, too.

      over 1 year ago
    • 4Boysmom's Avatar

      Thank you for all the great advice. I think my Dr just wanted to offer me this trial because I have not met with radiation oncologist yet. If I went with the trial it would be a narrow beam.

      over 1 year ago
    • LymphActivist's Avatar

      Be prepared to talk to your doctor about the risk of breast lymphedema/delayed breast cellulitis, and whether the benefits of local control outweigh the risks of breast lymphedema. For more information see http://www.lymphactivist.org/breast_lymphedema_for_therapists.pdf and http://www.lymphactivist.org/breast_lymphedema-1.pdf

      over 1 year ago
    • RNSusan's Avatar

      I chose not to have radiation therapy for a variety of reasons, one being that the chemo had already caused a little heart damage. I met with two radiation oncologists and both told me there was still the risk to the heart. My % of reoccurrence if I had the radiation treatment wasn't much different than if I didn't do it, so I didn't. Please get more than one opinion on this before you do anything.

      over 1 year ago
    • mofields' Avatar

      I had a left mastectomy, no chemo, and did 33 rounds of radiation. So far 4 years later no heart problems at all - God willing I am near 60 (yikes)!!

      over 1 year ago

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