Practice patterns in the delivery of radiation therapy after mastectomy among the University of California Athena Breast Health Network

Clin Breast Cancer. 2015 Feb;15(1):43-7. doi: 10.1016/j.clbc.2014.07.005. Epub 2014 Aug 15.


Background: Practice patterns vary with the planning and delivery of PMRT. In our investigation we examined practice patterns in the use of chest wall bolus and a boost among the Athena Breast Health Network (Athena).

Materials and methods: Athena is a collaboration among the 5 University of California Medical Centers that aims to integrate clinical care and research. From February 2011 to June 2011, all physicians specializing in the multidisciplinary treatment of breast cancer were invited to take a Web-based practice patterns survey. Sixty-two of the 239 questions focused on radiation therapy practice environment, decision-making processes, and treatment management, including the use of a bolus or boost in PMRT.

Results: Ninety-two percent of the radiation oncologists specializing in breast cancer completed the survey. All of the responders use a material to increase the surface dose to the chest wall during PMRT. Materials used included brass mesh, commercial bolus, and custom-designed wax bolus. Fifty percent used tissue equivalent superflab bolus. Fifty-five percent of the respondents routinely use a boost to the chest wall in PMRT. Eighteen percent give a boost depending on the margin status, and 3 of 11 (27%) do not use a boost.

Conclusion: Our investigation documents practice pattern variation for the use of a PMRT boost and the use of chest wall bolus among the University of California breast cancer radiation oncologists. Further understanding of the practice pattern variation will help guide clinicians in our cancer centers to a more uniform approach in the delivery of PMRT.

Keywords: Bolus; Boost; Postmastectomy; Radiation; Treatment planning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Community Networks
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Mastectomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / statistics & numerical data
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant / statistics & numerical data*