"You hear the word 'cancer,' and your heart just stops."
Celina Lopez was only 36 when she received her breast cancer diagnosis — news that is nearly impossible to comprehend as a young woman with so much life left to live. Determined to overcome this hurdle, Celina immediately began chemotherapy and radiation therapy at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center's Douglas & Nancy Barnhart Cancer Center. And after nearly two months of daily treatment, Celina celebrated her final appointment this September by ringing the graduation bell with her family and caregivers surrounding her.
As part of her radiation treatment, Celina performed a special technique called deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH), which helps prevent heart disease from developing in patients who have received radiation therapy for breast cancer. During DIBH, a patient's radiation treatment is planned meticulously — down to the millimeter — to ensure the proper amount of radiation is effectively applied to the tumor, while sparing the heart. This occurs when a patient takes a deep breath and holds it for 30 seconds, which moves the heart away from the breast.
"The separation created by inhaling limits and creates enough space to protect the heart from radiation," says Dr. Phillip Zentner, medical director of radiation oncology at the Barnhart Cancer Center. "There's no doubt that deep inspiration breath hold is reducing the dose of radiation to the heart."
Candidates for DIBH are typically young women with cancer in their left breast, where the tumor is located very close to the heart. According to Rick Michaels, lead physicist at the Barnhart Cancer Center, 3 percent of patients who've undergone radiation therapy for left breast cancer will develop some form of heart disease 10 to 15 years after treatment. DIBH helps lower that risk of heart disease development by 75 percent.
"Now that treatment is finished, I'm looking forward to my daily routine - spending time with my friends and family, and having the energy to enjoy the things I used to do every day," says Celina.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Zenter about deep inspiration breath hold for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.