Deep Inspiration Breath Hold

Deep Inspiration Breath Hold [DIBH] is an innovative technique for left-sided breast cancer.


Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) is a technique for left-sided breast cancer patients that reduces the potential impact of radiation on the heart. The process involves holding a certain number of breaths for short bursts during treatment which allows the heart to move backwards into the chest while the breast is exposed to radiation.

How does it work?

The method requires patients with left-sided breast cancer to hold their breath for a period while treatment is administered – hence the name Deep Inspiration Breath Hold.

Taking a deep breath in, increases the amount of air in the lungs and also the distance between the heart and the area of the breast receiving radiation treatment. Increasing the distance between the radiation beams and the heart reduces the subsequent potential risk of heart injury that may present three to five years after treatment.

Practising at home

Before your CT/Planning and your first treatment appointment, it can be helpful to practice your breathing technique at home. Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Find a comfortable spot at home to lie down
  2. Place your arms above your head (this is the position you will be in for treatment)
  3. Try holding your breath for 20 seconds at a time
  4. Concentrate on breathing through your chest rather than your belly/abdomen
  5. Repeat this breathing pattern 6-10 times until you feel comfortable

During DIBH

We understand that some patients may feel anxious about DIBH, but each individual breath hold is less than thirty seconds. To ensure patients are comfortable, our care team will take the time to conduct practice runs, and will also show you how to practice at home.

The system is directly linked to the treatment machine (linear accelerator) and only allows the radiation treatment to be delivered when the chest is in the correct position. If there are any problems, don’t worry. The machine will not turn on unless you are in the correct breath hold. You will be in control the whole time.

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Frequently asked questions

Learn answers to some common concerns and misconceptions about radiation therapy.
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