Breast size impact on adjuvant radiotherapy adverse effects and dose parameters in treatment planning

Radiol Oncol. 2018 Aug 2;52(3):233-244. doi: 10.2478/raon-2018-0026.


Background Breast radiotherapy is an established adjuvant treatment after breast conserving surgery. One of the important individual factors affecting the final cosmetic outcome after radiation is breast size. The purpose of this review is to summarise the clinical toxicity profile of adjuvant radiotherapy in women with breasts of various sizes, and to evaluate the treatment planning studies comparing target coverage and dose to thoracic organs at risk in relation to breast size. Conclusions Inhomogeneity and excessive radiation dose (hot spots) in the planning of target volume as well as large volume of the breast per se, all contribute to a higher rate of acute adverse events and suboptimal final cosmetic outcome in adjuvant breast cancer radiotherapy, regardless of the fractionation schedule. Improved homogeneity leads to a lower rate of ≥ grade 2 toxicity and can be achieved with three-dimensional conformal or modulated radiotherapy techniques. There may be an association between body habitus (higher body mass index, bigger breast size, pendulous breast, and large chest wall separation) and a higher mean dose to the ipsilateral lung and whole heart. A combination of the technical innovations (i.e. the breath-hold technique, prone position with or without holding breath, lateral decubitus position, and thermoplastic bra), dose prescription (i.e. moderate hypofractionation), and irradiated volume (i.e. partial breast irradiation) should be tailored to every single patient in clinical practice to mitigate the risk of radiation adverse effects.

Keywords: breast cancer; breast size; organs at risk; radiation side effects; treatment planning.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mastectomy, Segmental
  • Organ Size
  • Organs at Risk
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant / adverse effects*