A urologist can determine if intensity-modulated radiation therapy is right for your type of tumor and stage of cancer.
Tumors in the prostate and other parts of the urinary system are sometimes small enough to be treated successfully with radiation therapy. It’s a type of treatment that may also be recommended by a urologist in situations where surgery to remove a tumor isn’t possible or advisable.
- An alternative to traditional radiation delivery, which can present certain exposure risks for patients, is intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).
- It’s a form of radiation therapy intended to minimize radiation exposure while still targeting the tumor and affected tissues.
What is Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy?
IMRT is an approach to delivering radiation to malignant (cancerous) tumors that uses computer-controlled devices to target certain areas of a tumor. The radiation doses are administered in a way that conforms to the shape of the tumor. Because of the specific process involved, IMRT allows for higher doses of radiation to be safely delivered with greater frequency and accuracy in shorter sessions.
How Does IMRT Work?
Computerized dose calculations are based on results from CT scans, X-rays, PET scans, and/or MRI images. The computer will be adjusted so the pattern of radiation delivered matches the size and shape of the tumor, which reduces the risk of damage to healthy tissues. The radiation doses are typically applied at varying angles and directions to target the tumor with greater intensity. The equipment is controlled from a radiation-protected area where the doctor can view the procedure from a monitor. Special shields are used to protect healthy tissues from the radiation.
How Do Patients Prepare for Treatment?
A simulation test is usually done first. It involves the use of a special X-ray machine that’s used while the patient remains still on a table so the treatment area can be better defined. Colored, permanent ink is used to clearly mark the treatment area. Results from the simulation test along with the patient’s medical history and the results from image tests and lab tests will be used to determine how many sessions to recommend and how to set the computer to deliver the radiation doses.
What Happens After IMRT?
Patients can return to their normal activities following IMRT. There is no need to rest or take special precautions. Patients will not be radioactive, so there is also no need to avoid people or refrain from personal contact.
How Does IMRT Benefit Patients?
Radiation therapy is a common treatment recommendation for patients with prostate cancer, gynecologic cancer, or a tumor that’s localized in the urinary system. The potential risks associated with traditional radiation therapy come from prolonged exposure to the radiation that’s necessary to kill cancer cells. With IMRT, there are several possible benefits for patients, including:
- Improved precision of radiation delivery
- Constant communication during treatment so the machine can be stop if there is any discomfort
- Higher doses of radiation can be safely delivered with fewer side effects
- Reduced treatment toxicity
Sessions normally take place five days a week for several weeks. Each application takes about 15-30 minutes. Once a treatment schedule is set, it’s important not to miss any of your sessions to improve the odds of seeing the desired results. Follow-up examinations are usually done after IMRT sessions have been completed to confirm that all affected tissues have been successfully treated. The odds of recurrence will depend on the type of cancer and factors such as overall health and lifestyle. Potential side effects associated with IMRT are generally mild and temporary.