Patterns of dose variability in radiation prescription of breast cancer

Indra J. Das, Chee Wai Cheng, Douglas A. Fein, Barbara Fowble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

63 Scopus citations


Purpose: Comparison of radiation outcome of various treatment protocols is difficult due to the variability of dose prescription. A retrospective analysis of the pattern and intercomparison of dose prescriptions is presented for the treatment of breast cancer. Materials and methods: To represent the clinical practice for breast irradiation with tangential fields, commonly used prescription points were chosen that lie on the perpendicular bisector of the chest wall separation (s) that represents the breast apex height (h). These points are located at 1.5 cm from the posterior beam edge, at the chest wall-lung interface (2-3 cm), at distances of h/3 and h/2, and at the isocenter. One hundred consecutive patients treated with intact breast following excisional biopsy were used in this study. For analysis, treatment planning was carried out without lung correction with a 6 MV beam for all patients, even though some of the patients were treated with high energy beams for dose uniformity. Dose distributions were optimized with wedges and beam weights to provide a symmetrical dose distribution on the central axis plane. The statistical analyses of the different parameters, s, h, maximum dose, and doses at various prescription points were carried out. Results: The maximum dose (hot spot) in breast varied from +5% to +27% above the prescribed dose among the patient population. The hot spot was directly related to s, and appeared to be independent of h and the ratio his. Among 55%, 40%, and 5% of the patients, the magnitude of the hot spot was 5-10%, 10-15%, and >15%, respectively. Except for the magnitude of the hot spot, the doses at various prescription points were independent of the breast size. For a prescription point at h/3 or at the lung-chest wall interface, the dose variation within ±1% is observed for 90% of the patient population. On the other hand, the average dose variation is about ±3% among other protocols with dose prescription point varying up to the h/2 paint. With the prescription point at the isocenter, an average and maximum variation of 4-5% and 11% were observed, respectively. The maximum dose inhomogeneity for some patients was significantly higher, i.e. up to +27% even without the lung correction. Conclusions: A wide variation in prescription dose is observed among the different treatment protocols commonly used in breast treatment. For a total dose of 46-50 Gy delivered at 2 Gy/fraction to the breast, the prescribed dose may vary between 50 and 55 Gy and the hot spot dose per fraction may range between 2.3 and 2.5 Gy depending on the protocol and breast size. Thus dose normalization at hot spot and the isocenter should be discouraged unless the total dose to the breast is modified. A uniform definition of dose prescription for breast treatment is greatly required for intercomparison of clinical data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-89
Number of pages7
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 1997


  • Breast
  • Dose prescription points
  • Dose specification
  • Dosimetry
  • Hot spot

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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