Risk of Heart & Lung Damage with Breast Radiation

Last Modified: March 9, 2008


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

What is the risk of damage to your heart or lung from radiation treatment for left breast DCIS?


Terry Styles, MD, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

After many years of radiotherapy and many types of cancer treated, it became obvious that radiation to the chest region can cause damage to the heart and lungs. For example, when radiation was used after mastectomy for left sided breast cancers, there was a slightly increased risk of cardiac damage. A large volume of the heart was often included in these treatment fields. After many years of study, it became apparent that there was a slightly higher than normal rate of coronary disease in the patients who received radiation to their left side due to the volume of heart and lung tissue in those radiation fields. It is important to point out that this risk was outweighed by the benefit; that is, with radiation, there were fewer second cancers and local recurrences.


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