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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2006 May 1;65(1):52-8. Epub 2006 Feb 2.

Body radiation exposure in breast cancer radiotherapy: impact of breast IMRT and virtual wedge compensation techniques.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Recent reports demonstrate a dramatically increased rate of secondary leukemia for breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant high-dose anthracycline and radiotherapy, and that radiation is an independent factor for the development of leukemia. This study aimed to evaluate the radiation body exposure during breast radiotherapy and to characterize the factors associated with an increased exposure.


In a prospective cohort of 120 women, radiation measurements were taken from four sites on the body at the time of adjuvant breast radiotherapy. Multiple regression analysis was performed to analyze patient and treatment factors associated with the amount of scattered radiation.


For standard 50 Gy breast radiotherapy, the minimal dose received by abdominal organs is on average 0.45 Gy, ranging from 0.06 to 1.55 Gy. The use of physical wedges as a compensation technique was the most significant factor associated with increased scattered dose (p < 0.001), resulting in approximately three times more exposure compared with breast intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and dynamic wedge.


The amount of radiation that is scattered to a patient's body is consistent with exposure reported to be associated with excess of leukemia. In accordance with the As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) principle, we recommend using breast IMRT or virtual wedging for the radiotherapy of breast cancer receiving high-dose anthracycline chemotherapy.

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