Combined photon-electron beams in the treatment of the supraclavicular lymph nodes in breast cancer: A novel technique that achieves adequate coverage while reducing lung dose

Ahmed Salem, Issa Mohamad, Abdulmajeed Dayyat, Haitham Kanaa'n, Nasim Sarhan, Ibrahim Roujob, Abdel-Fattah Salem, Shatha Afifi, Imad Jaradat, Rasmi Mubiden, Abdelateif Almousa
Medical Dosimetry: Official Journal of the American Association of Medical Dosimetrists 2015, 40 (3): 210-7
Radiation pneumonitis is a well-documented side effect of radiation therapy for breast cancer. The purpose of this study was to compare combined photon-electron, photon-only, and electron-only plans in the radiation treatment of the supraclavicular lymph nodes. In total, 13 patients requiring chest wall and supraclavicular nodal irradiation were planned retrospectively using combined photon-electron, photon-only, and electron-only supraclavicular beams. A dose of 50Gy over 25 fractions was prescribed. Chest wall irradiation parameters were fixed for all plans. The goal of this planning effort was to cover 95% of the supraclavicular clinical target volume (CTV) with 95% of the prescribed dose and to minimize the volume receiving ≥ 105% of the dose. Comparative end points were supraclavicular CTV coverage (volume covered by the 95% isodose line), hotspot volume, maximum radiation dose, contralateral breast dose, mean total lung dose, total lung volume percentage receiving at least 20 Gy (V(20 Gy)), heart volume percentage receiving at least 25 Gy (V(25 Gy)). Electron and photon energies ranged from 8 to 18 MeV and 4 to 6 MV, respectively. The ratio of photon-to-electron fractions in combined beams ranged from 5:20 to 15:10. Supraclavicular nodal coverage was highest in photon-only (mean = 96.2 ± 3.5%) followed closely by combined photon-electron (mean = 94.2 ± 2.5%) and lowest in electron-only plans (mean = 81.7 ± 14.8%, p < 0.001). The volume of tissue receiving ≥ 105% of the prescription dose was higher in the electron-only (mean = 69.7 ± 56.1 cm(3)) as opposed to combined photon-electron (mean = 50.8 ± 40.9 cm(3)) and photon-only beams (mean = 32.2 ± 28.1 cm(3), p = 0.114). Heart V(25 Gy) was not statistically different among the plans (p = 0.999). Total lung V(20 Gy) was lowest in electron-only (mean = 10.9 ± 2.3%) followed by combined photon-electron (mean = 13.8 ± 2.3%) and highest in photon-only plans (mean = 16.2 ± 3%, p < 0.001). As expected, photon-only plans demonstrated the highest target coverage and total lung V(20 Gy). The superiority of electron-only beams, in terms of decreasing lung dose, is set back by the dosimetric hotspots associated with such plans. Combined photon-electron treatment is a feasible technique for supraclavicular nodal irradiation and results in adequate target coverage, acceptable dosimetric hotspot volume, and slightly reduced lung dose.

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