RapidArc® radiotherapy is a technique designed to improve the speed and precision of radiation therapy.
A common treatment for cancer affecting the urinary system is radiation therapy. It involves the use of high-energy waves or beams that are concentrated directly on tumor cells. It’s often recommended for cancer that’s in an early stage or for situations where surgery to remove a tumor isn’t possible.
A newer form of image-guided intensity-modulated radiation therapy, a common way of applying radiation to cancerous tissues, is RapidArc® radiotherapy.
What is RapidArc® Radiotherapy?
With RapidArc®, a urologist uses a computer-generated image to accurately administer radiation to the affected area. A special machine called a medical linear accelerator rotates around the patient. Doing so allows the radiation to be quickly delivered to the tumor in a matter of minutes with varying degrees of intensity. The treatment is unique in that the beam of energy is adjusted to match the shape of the tumor for greater control over how radiation is applied.
How is RapidArc® Radiotherapy Done?
RapidArc® treatment starts with testing and an evaluation of the patient to determine which tissues are affected so the radiation can be correctly administered with the medical linear accelerator. This typically involves a CT scan or an MRI scan. In some situations, what’s termed a simulation session may be done to localize the cancerous tissues even more before beginning regular sessions. Based on test results, a session schedule will be recommended. Oftentimes, sessions are done either five days a week with weekends breaks or a full seven days per week.
After it’s determined how to specifically set up the machine, radiation is delivered at a 360-degree revolution for a few minutes. Colored ink is also used to mark the area that needs to be treated to further increase precision. Immobilization devices may be used when the patient is on the table to prevent movement. It usually takes some time set up the machine used for RapidArc® as per patient specifications following the initial image testing.
Potential Benefits for Patients
The rapid delivery of radiation that’s possible with RapidArc® radiotherapy makes it easier for the patient to hold still, which is necessary to avoid unintentionally delivering radiation to healthy tissues. Also, lower doses of radiation can be applied with each session, and the beam can be administered at just about any angle. Since the machine rotates around the patient, there’s no need for repositioning with each application. The delivery of radiation is 2 to 8 times faster than traditional radiation therapy. Since sessions are shorter, patients also tend to be more comfortable.
As with any form of radiation therapy, the number of RapidArc® treatments will vary based on several factors, such as the type of cancer affecting the urinary system, whether or not it has spread, and a patient’s reaction to the first few sessions. Because lower doses of radiation are administered for shorter durations, patients may experience fewer side effects commonly associated with radiation therapy, such as fatigue and skin irritation.