Intensity modulated radiation therapy, also known as IMRT, is a type of radiotherapy that makes use of computer controlled software designed to deliver specific and very precise doses of radiation to specific areas within cancerous or malignant tumor growth. At its most basic definition, this type of therapy can render nearly 3-D or three dimensional images and shapes of a tumor by controlling the intensity of flow of radiation beams.
IMRT basically prevents cancerous cells their ability to divide and replicate or grow, efficiently slowing or halting tumor growth. As such, radiation therapy is designed to destroy and kill cancerous cell growth.
Patients receiving intensity modulated radiation therapy experience less tissue damage in areas surrounding tumor growth than with traditional forms of radiation dose therapy. Using IMRT, higher radiation doses may be delivered to the tumor growth, as the beams are specifically focused to areas within that tumor location. Such radiation helps to reduce side effects, tissue damage, and conditions and symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.
IMRT procedures are painless, although symptoms and side effects following treatment will depend on the type of radiation as well as a strength and dosage, and the area of the body being treated.
Intensity modulated radiation therapy is a type of 3-D computed tomography. Computed tomography is also known as CT imaging. The 3-D computed tomography technology is combined with precise calculations delivered by computer analysis to determine specific doses and intensities of radiation to be delivered depending on tumor shape and size. Such an approach offers physicians the ability to tailor radiation doses on a customized and individualized basis as well as minimizing damage of surrounding or normal tissues.
To date, intensity modulated radiation therapy is used mainly to treat prostate cancers as well as cancerous growth found in the head, neck, and central nervous system. However, this type of technology has also begun to be used for treatments of thyroid, breast and lung cancers.
A variety of individuals are involved in the IMRT process, including radiation therapists, oncologist, physicists and radiation therapy nurses. Each of these individuals is responsible for the delivery of exact radiation doses, while a person called a dosimetrist is responsible for calculating the configurations necessary for the technology to deliver adequate doses under the direction of the radiation oncologist.
The equipment utilized to deliver intensity modulated radiation therapy has been described as roughly the size of a small car. The patient lays on a treatment table, and a piece of equipment called a linear accelerator emits radiation beams to the tumor from a variety of locations and positions. Sessions usually take 10 to 30 minutes.
Cost for a IMRT procedures depends not only geographic location, but the location, size and type of tumor being treated. Costs for a IMRT treatment in the United States may range up to $100,000, but also depends on the number of sessions the individual requires, as well as how much of those costs are covered by general medical insurance. General costs may average around $50,000 to $60,000, but may not include doctor's charges. However, travelers to locations such as India may save tens of thousands of dollars on the same treatments.
A number of individuals working as a team perform IMRT. Team members may include but are not limited to highly trained doctors who sub-specialize in fields such as radiation oncologists, medical physicists, radiation oncologists and the dosimetrist, who is the person who analyses and designates the precise calculations for dosage and exposure time of radiation to the tumor growth.
Ensure that all team members are trained, experienced and certified by national radiology associations or organizations, as well as certified as cancer specialists in their fields of study and focus.
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