Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy

IMRT combines very precise tumor imaging techniques with special linear accelerators that deliver hundreds of thin beams of radiation to the cancer site, while sparing healthy surrounding tissue. Using sophisticated software and hardware to vary the shape and intensity of the radiation, IMRT allows physicians to target cancers in areas of the body that have been traditionally difficult to treat with radiation. The Cancer Treatment Group physicians have found IMRT to be especially successful in treating prostate cancer, head and neck cancers, pancreatic cancer, and cancers of the, liver, lungs and spinal cord. Because the radiation dose is designed to conform to the three-dimensional shape of the tumor, IMRT is often used to treat tumors considered untreatable because they were too intertwined with vital organs. Targeting the radiation to the tumor allows the physicians to maximize the tumor dose while protecting normal adjacent tissues. The technology of IMRT also allows the dose of radiation to vary within a single beam, meaning higher radiation is delivered to some areas and lower radiation to others. The total dose of radiation and the number of IMRT treatments a patient needs depend on the size and location of the cancer, the type of tumor, the patient’s general health, and other factors. A typical course would be on an outpatient basis five days a week for five to eight weeks. Weekend rest breaks allow normal cells to recover.

Benefits of IMRT

  • delivers higher radiation doses directly to cancer cells while sparing more of the surrounding healthy tissue
  • lower doses to normal tissues may mean fewer complications or side effects
  • able to treat cancers that were previously untreatable with radiation therapy