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December 19, 2017

Respiratory Gating Technology offers Targeted Treatment for Cancer Patients

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Patients with Cancers of the Breast, Lung or Abdomen Benefit From Enhanced Precision in Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a life-saving tool for patients undergoing treatment for cancer, but it does come with a risk of damaging healthy tissue.

Now, ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center can reduce that risk, offering respiratory gating technology as a way to spare normal tissue from receiving extra radiation, said Kim Schwab, manager of radiation oncology. “Respiratory gating is a real-time motion management tool,” Schwab said. “It tracks the patient’s normal breathing cycle to treat the tumor when it is in the most stable position for treatment.”

The technology allows the physician to select the phase of the patient’s breathing cycle when the tumor is moving the least, and ensures the radiation beam turns on only at those times, such as when the patient has either just inhaled or exhaled. “Then the beam will turn on while the tumor is at that optimal position,” Schwab said. “When the patient takes a breath and the tumor moves, the beam will go off automatically.”

In the past, radiation oncologists had to allow for a larger margin around the tumor to account for tumor movement during a patient’s breathing cycle. Studies have shown that while radiation has been an effective tool in treating tumors, in some cases radiation damage to healthy tissue can result in side effects down the road, Schwab said.

“We’re always looking for that next layer of precision that allows us to give the best, most accurate doses without adding extra side effects, because that’s how you increase your chances for a cure,” Schwab said.

Since July, ThedaCare has treated patients using respiratory gating as well as Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH), another motion management tool offered with the respiratory gating equipment. DIBH is currently offered for breast cancer patients and works well particularly for patients who have a breast tumor that lies especially close to heart tissue. Some patients suffering from breast cancer on the left side were particularly at risk. “Now we have another tool to help minimize the impact of radiation on the heart.”

With DIBH, radiation therapists use the equipment to coach patients when to draw in a deep breath, when to hold and when to release. The radiation beam will turn on while a patient is holding their breath and will automatically turn off when the patient exhales, Schwab said.

Offering the technology at the regional cancer center allows patients in the region another close-to-home option for state-of-the-art care. “There are a lot of community hospitals around the country where this type of equipment is not available, so having this new tool in our toolbox is a great benefit to our patients,” Schwab said.

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose, as well as 32 clinics in nine counties and the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.  For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter