In this installment we will continue to looking into the numerous options available in radiation therapy treatments that oncologists can use when treating cancerous tumors. As stated previously, depending on a variety of circumstances the option in therapy chosen to treat your cancer will vary. Your radiation oncologist is the only one that understands your unique situation and therefore is the only one that can recommend a treatment plan.
Intensity modulated radiation therapy, otherwise known as IMRT, delivers photons to treat tumors but in a manner that allows healthy structures to receive a potentially lower dose of the high radiation. The process of IMRT begins much the same way as other methods of delivering photon radiation. Treatment planning begins by performing a CT scan that outlines the normal organs and the cancerous tumors. From the scans the radiation beams are positioned in a fashion to deliver the radiation to the cancerous area without affecting the healthy tissue.
The difference in IMRT is that the beams are divided into a grid that takes the one large radiation beam and divides it out into many smaller beams. Computer software is employed to help radiation oncologists determine the best pattern to deliver radiation while sparing healthy organs. A variety of shapes are used during treatment to ensure precise control while delivering radiation which is critical when treating tumors in difficult to reach positions. IMRT is often utilized in the treatment of head and neck cancer where there are other critical structures close to the cancer that can be easily damaged by the strong course of radiation treatment. IMRT is one of the most frequently used methods in delivering radiation.
There are downsides when treating cancerous tumors using IMRT as there are in all treatment options. The time it takes to plan the course of treatment as well as the amount of time it takes to deliver the daily treatment because of the number of shapes the leaves are required to make during treatment. Another downside is that with the beams going in numerous directions it is possible that the dose of radiation would not be as even as it is with three D conformal therapy. Another disadvantage found is that although a high dose of radiation is spared to healthy organs a greater number of normal organs are affected by radiation because of the greater number of beams used in shaping the radiation. New and improved intensity modulated radiation therapies continue to hit the market being tested on a variety of hard to reach tumors in the head, neck, brain, prostate, GI and lungs.
In our continued series on the numerous types of radiation we will begin to look into options in image guided radiotherapy otherwise known as IGRT. The uniqueness of this therapy comes in that imaging scans are continually repeated to identify any changes in the tumor size and surrounding area.
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