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The Technology Behind IMRT Radiation Therapy

Dec 25, 2007
Radiation therapy's goal is to hit a tumor with enough radiation to kill it while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. However, radiation tends to kill virtually everything that it touches. The problem then with radiation therapy is killing the tumor without harming the patient or any healthy tissue that surrounds a tumor. Doing so requires not only capable and skilled oncologists, but also new technologies that are able to deliver highly focused beams of radiation with ultimate precision.

IMRT, an acronym for Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy, is a radiation delivery method that is capable of creating a curved beam, thereby conforming better to the shape of a tumor. This allows a higher dose of radiation to be delivered to the target area while minimizing collateral damage to surrounding tissue.

Precise delivery to a tumor -- and tumor only -- is vital since exposure to radiation can cause a secondary case of cancer in the patient being treated.

Creating "curved radiation"

To create a curve-shaped radiation delivery beam, IMRT takes advantage of today's powerful computer technology. In the IMRT delivery system, computers control radiation shields in a linear accelerator to deliver precise radiation doses. The doses conform to the tumor's shape by modulating the beam's intensity. A computer software application is used to precisely calculate the delivery based on a 3D image of the tumor gained via a CT scan or other imaging technology.

This allows a radiation therapist to deliver a higher level of radiation to a tumor's core, while delivering less radiation to the outer edges of the tumor where healthy tissue is more likely to be damaged.

Thanks to IMRT, radiation therapy has improved to the point that radiation can be effectively delivered to concave-shaped tumors that wrap around vital organs, such as the spinal column. This has improved survival rates in cancer patients, particularly those who suffer from head and neck cancer.

Limitations of IMRT radiation therapy

The main limitation of IMRT is the limited number of experienced IMRT radiation therapists. An inexperienced or untrained IMRT radiotherapist runs the risk of over delivery to healthy tissue by mistake. This can increase the chance of secondary cancer resulting from the treatment of a previous cancer.

Finding an experienced IMRT radiation therapist

Vantage Oncology is a national network of highly capable and experienced radiation therapists who have the knowledge needed to create the best treatment plan for your radiation therapy and to deliver IMRT radiation treatment.
About the Author
Vantage Oncology (http://www.vantageoncology.com/doctors.php) offers management solutions for oncology through a national network of radiation oncologists experienced in the latest radiotherapy treatments, such as IMRT , and are committed to continuously raising the standard for cancer care.
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