Deep Inspiration Breath Hold [DIBH] is a technique for left-sided breast cancer patients that reduces the potential impact of radiation on the heart. The process involves holding a certain number of breaths for short bursts during treatment which allows the heart to move backwards into the chest while the breast is exposed to radiation.
How does it work?
The method requires patients with left-sided breast cancer to hold their breath for a period while treatment is administered – hence the name Deep Inspiration Breath Hold.
Taking a deep breath in, increases the amount of air in the lungs and also the distance between the heart and the area of the breast receiving radiation treatment. Increasing the distance between the radiation beams and the heart reduces the subsequent potential risk of heart injury that may present three to five years after treatment.
Practising at home
Before your CT/Planning and your first treatment appointment, it can be helpful to practice your breathing technique at home. Here are some helpful tips:
- Find a comfortable spot at home to lie down
- Place your arms above your head (this is the position you will be in for treatment)
- Try holding your breath for 20 seconds at a time
- Concentrate on breathing through your chest rather than your belly/abdomen
- Repeat this breathing pattern 6-10 times until you feel comfortable