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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2013 Mar 15;85(4):971-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2012.08.025.

The addition of SPECT/CT lymphoscintigraphy to breast cancer radiation planning spares lymph nodes critical for arm drainage.

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Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



This prospective cohort study was designed to determine whether the amount of radiation delivered to the nonpathological lymph nodes (LNs) that drain the arm can be significantly reduced by integrating single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)/computed tomography (CT) scans into radiation treatment planning.


SPECT-CT scans were acquired for the 28 patients with stage I or II breast cancer and fused with the routinely obtained radiation oncology planning CT scans. Arm-draining LNs were contoured with 0.5-cm margins automatically using a threshold of 50% maximum intensity. Two treatment plans were generated: 1 per routine clinical practice (standard; STD) and the second (modified; MOD) with treatment fields modified to minimize dose to the arm-draining LNs visible on SPECT/CT images without interfering with the dosage delivered to target tissues. Participants were treated per the MOD plans. Arm volumes were measured prior to radiation and thereafter at least three subsequent 6-month intervals.


Sixty-eight level I-III arm-draining LNs were identified, 57% of which were inside the STD plan fields but could be blocked in the MOD plan fields. Sixty-five percent of arm-draining LNs in the STD versus 16% in the MOD plans received a mean of ≥10 Gy, and 26% in the STD versus 4% in the MOD plans received a mean of ≥40 Gy. Mean LN radiation exposure was 23.6 Gy (standard deviation 18.2) with the STD and 7.7 Gy (standard deviation 11.3) with the MOD plans (P<.001). No participant developed lymphedema.


The integration of SPECT/CT scans into breast cancer radiation treatment planning reduces unnecessary arm-draining LN radiation exposure and may lessen the risk of lymphedema.

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