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Buddy Check: Prone position for radiation

4:31 PM, Apr 12, 2013   |    comments
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After Ivy Berry's last radiation treatment for breast cancer, she rang a victory bell three times. It's a tradition for patients wrapping up their therapy at Knoxville's Provision Radiation Therapy in Dowell Springs.

She is now cancer free. But a year ago, the 44-year-old Knoxville woman found out she had breast cancer after her first mammogram.

"They told me I needed to go ahead and have a lumpectomy right away," said Berry. She had the surgery along with radiation therapy.

Provision Radiation Therapy Medical Director Dr. Allen Meek says that's the gold standard when it comes to treatment.

But Meek adds, what isn't standard at Provision Radiation is how the radiation is delivered.

Typically, patients are on placed on their back, in a supine position when the radiation beam targets the affected area. At Provision Radiation, Berry was placed in a prone position, on her stomach.

The breast is able to fall through an open area on a special table.

"With gravity, the breast pulls forward. Then you are able to bring the radiation beam in," said Meeks.

Berry admits it's not the most comfortable position but it is the preferred position for both her and her doctor.

Dr. Meeks' concern with delivering radiation to a patient while on their back is the harmful exposure to areas of the body in addition to the breast.

"The main long term consequences we are concerned about are radiation to the heart and lungs," said Meek.

When radiation is delivered in a prone position the heart and lungs are spared from exposure and any future potential medical problems.

Meek said, "One of the big concerns is that 15 to 20 years down the road, a patient can develop lung cancer from radiation to the lung."

For Ivy Berry, radiation treatment in a prone position was the only way to go. She beat cancer this time and ringing the "ceremonial bell" at Provision Radiation Therapy once is more than enough.

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