About External Beam Therapy and Intensity Modulated Radiation
Q. What is Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)?
A. IMRT is a form of external beam therapy in which a computerized system actually shapes the intensity of the radiation to the specific size and shape of almost any tumor using 3-dimensional imagery and computerized treatment planning. With IMRT, doctors can accurately deliver enough radiation to kill a tumor while sparing healthy surrounding tissue. Physicians have seen excellent results on previously unapproachable tumors (including those wrapped around healthy organs) using IMRT.
Currently, IMRT is being used to treat cancers of the prostate, head and neck, breast, thyroid and lung; liver and brain tumors; and lymphomas and sarcomas. It’s also beneficial in treating pediatric malignancies.
Q. What’s involved in the process of receiving external beam therapy?
A. For many patients, preparation for treatment requires special planning x-ray sessions done on a machine called a simulator. The simulator pinpoints the exact location in the body where treatment will be directed. Your skin may be marked with semi-permanent ink to help the therapist line things up uniformly throughout your treatment.
From the information gathered by the simulator, a physicist will use a planning computer to produce a treatment plan that best localizes the treatment to the area and minimizes the dose to normal structures.
During a treatment session, depending on the specific form of EBT you are receiving, the equipment (called a linear accelerator) rotates around you to deliver beams of radiation to the tumor as you lie flat. Small beams of radiation are focused directly on the tumor. Each treatment takes less than 30 minutes and is completely painless. Duration of treatment may vary from one week to six weeks.
Q. Who will be present for the procedure?
A. EBT is performed by a specially trained team of healthcare professionals including the radiation oncologist, a medical radiation physicist, a dosimetrist, a radiation therapist, and a radiation therapy nurse.
Q. What should I wear for my treatments?
A. Wear comfortable clothing, something that is easy to get in and out of and sleeves that can be rolled up for taking blood pressure or having lab work done.
Q. I’ve already been treated with radiation for an existing tumor. Am I still a candidate for EBT?
A. Quite possibly. Speak with your physician about it. It can be a very effective re-treatment.