By now, most people will probably have got used to me sharing the detail, bearing all, and going geeky on the science behind all this! Well last week, I had a meeting with the Radiologist and she gave me a little more insight into what they’re doing to me in phase 3.
Because the area to be radiated (the radiation ‘field’) is in my left breast (directly in front of my heart), we use a technique called ‘breath hold’ – this literally means I hold my breath during radiation, so my lungs expand and push my heart back away from the radiation ‘field’. In the clip below, the Radiologist explains how this works, using the scans they took of my chest…
In my last post, I included a couple of photos of the treatment room, where I lie down on a bed, with my arms above my head, while the machine moves around me and zaps my chest from various angles. The graphic below shows the various angles from which I am treated. In each image, the radiation field is in between the parallel lines. As the graphics build up, the intensity of radiation builds in the specific area where my tumour was located. So you can clearly see how targeted this treatment is (in comparison to chemo, which went around my whole body).
During each zap, the noise the machine makes is defined by the shape of the radiation field. This isn’t just a straight beam, it is shaped by many individual plates which come into the radiation field – a bit like the gadget you put your hand into to make an imprint…
Before each scan, these metal plates move until they outline the required shape, and the radiation is then beamed through that shape to radiate the precise area in my breast.
I find this stuff super interesting, and it really helps me understand what the machine is doing while I’m lying there. It all takes less that 3 minutes and I don’t feel a thing!
In the same way that we have to protect my heart during radiation, with other forms of cancer, they also have to take specific precautions to protect other major organs. In this case, I feel lucky my tumour was in an area which is easy to get at, as the precautionary measures are pretty simple – just hold your breath.
But I still feel like James Bond every time I lie on the machine 🙂