Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a prostate cancer treatment that involves the use of advanced computer programs to determine the optimal way to administer radiation directly to cancer cells from different angles. It helps cancer patients receive higher, more effective doses of radiation in comparison to other types of radiation therapy. Additionally, IMRT has been shown to limit the risk of potential damage to healthy tissues and organs surrounding cancer cells. As such, IMRT may simultaneously boost a cancer patient’s chances of achieving positive results and reducing his or her risk of encountering unwanted side effects.
IMRT is used to treat cancers located near critical organs and tissues in the body.
These cancers may include:
- Prostate cancer
- Head and neck cancers
- Lung cancer
- Brain cancer
- Gastrointestinal cancer
What are the benefits of IMRT?
IMRT often represents a viable treatment option for patients who have already received radiation treatments. It enables a cancer patient to limit the risk of unwanted side effects commonly associated with radiation treatments. Plus, with higher and more precise radiation treatments, an IMRT patient may be more likely than ever before to eliminate his or her cancer symptoms.
A prostate cancer patient may find IMRT is an effective option to address his or her cancer, too. IMRT allows a doctor to evaluate the exact size, shape, and location of a patient’s prostate cancer and determine exactly how much radiation is needed to destroy prostate cancer cells. Therefore, the procedure enables a prostate cancer patient to receive sufficient radiation treatments to reduce or eliminate prostate cancer cells and keep healthy cells around his or her prostate cancer intact.
Am I a good Candidate?
IMRT is not intended for all types of cancer. The ideal candidate for IMRT likely requires high doses of radiation to treat cancer or needs to limit radiation that could harm organs or tissues near cancer cells.
At Comprehensive Urology, our team of IMRT experts helps a patient determine if IMRT is the best cancer treatment based on his or her individual needs. Our team performs an in-depth patient evaluation, learns about a patient’s medical history, and conducts extensive patient testing. By doing so, we can provide a personalized cancer treatment recommendation.
How does IMRT work?
During an IMRT treatment, a patient first receives a computed tomography (CT) scan to visualize his or her tumor. Next, radiation therapy experts use advanced computer programs to analyze the tumor. These experts can then determine how to best administer radiation to the tumor.
A radiation therapist typically uses a standard radiotherapy machine called a linear accelerator (LINAC); he or she operates the LINAC from a radiation-protected area. The LINAC features a multileaf collimator that consists of thin leaves of lead that can move independently. These leaves can be formed into shapes that fit around a treatment area and move while the LINAC moves around a patient.
Each IMRT treatment session involves placing a patient on a treatment table, followed by the use of placing markers on a patient’s skin. These markers guide where a patient will receive IMRT treatment.
A radiation therapist maintains constant communication with a patient throughout IMRT. He or she also monitors the patient on a closed-circuit television during the procedure.
What to expect during IMRT
Oftentimes, an IMRT preparation session is required to mold a special device designed to help a patient maintain a precise treatment position. A patient may also be instructed to follow a specific bowel and bladder preparation plan prior to treatment.
CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests, and other assessments may be required prior to IMRT. A patient’s skin may be marked or tattooed with colored ink before IMRT, too; these markings help align and target IMRT equipment.
IMRT is performed over the course of several sessions. An oncologist considers the location and size of a patient’s tumor, a patient’s health, and other factors to determine exactly how many IMRT treatment sessions are required. In some instances, IMRT sessions are scheduled five times a week for up to eight weeks.
Each IMRT treatment session lasts between 10 and 30 minutes. IMRT sessions are virtually painless. However, if a patient feels any discomfort due to his or her treatment position or the positioning devices used during treatment, an IMRT session can be stopped.
Patients may experience some short-term side effects following IMRT. Common short-term IMRT side effects include:
- Hair loss in the treatment area
- Soreness and swelling in the treatment area
- Urinary and bladder changes
In rare instances, patients may experience long-term side effects associated with IMRT. These side effects may include:
Brain changes, Lung changes, Infertility, Lymphedema, Secondary cancer.