IMRT (Intensity-modulated radiotherapy)

August 8, 2022 Cancer Hub 30 Views

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What is the meaning of IMRT?

IMRT or intensity-modulated radiation therapy is a type of treatment for cancer that uses certain advanced computer programs for calculating and delivering radiation directly to cancer cells from different angles. IMRT allows cancer patients to receive higher and more effective radiation doses while limiting the damage caused to the healthy tissues and organs around them. This increases the efficacy of treatment and reduces the chances of side effects. IMRT is a type of external beam radiation therapy, which means radiation is provided from a source placed outside the body.

In this article, we will be discussing in detail about IMRT.

  • How does IMRT work?
  • What is the purpose of IMRT?
  • What is the diagnostic procedure for IMRT?
  • How to prepare for IMRT?
  • What is the procedure for IMRT?
  • How to care after IMRT?
  • What are the risks of IMRT?
  • What is the cost of IMRT in India?

How does IMRT work?

  • Like other types of radiation therapy, IMRT acts by damaging the DNA of cancer cells.
  • This prevents the cancer cells from growing and dividing, ultimately slowing or ceasing the growth of the tumor.

What is the purpose of IMRT?

IMRT is generally used for the treatment of tumors located close to critical tissues and organs in the body, as IMRT delivers high doses of radiation causing minimal or no damage to the surrounding tissues.

The different types of cancers that can be treated using IMRT include:

  • Head and neck cancers
  • Prostate cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Lung cancer ( Know more about- What is Lung Cancer ? )
  • Breast cancer
  • Gastrointestinal cancer
  • Lymphoma ( Know more about- What is Lymphoma ? )
  • Sarcoma
  • Gynecologic cancers
  • Certain types of childhood cancers

What is the diagnostic procedure for IMRT?

  • Physical examination: The doctor evaluates the physical health of the patient. The medical history of the patient is also noted.
  • Imaging tests: CT scans, MRI scans, or PET scans are the different types of imaging tests that could be performed before the procedure to obtain a clear image of the tumor in a three-dimensional view and help the doctor in planning the IMRT procedure better.
  • Endoscopy: An endoscope (a tube with a camera on one end) is used by the doctor to examine the organ internally. ( Know more about- What is Endoscopy? )
  • Blood tests: Blood tests help the doctor to check for the presence of any medical conditions that the patient may be having.
  • Biopsy: The suspected tissue growth is surgically excised by the doctor and sent to the laboratory for evaluation under the microscope, to check if cancer cells are present and the type of cancer cells that are present.

How to prepare for IMRT?

  • The doctor has to be informed about any medical diseases that you have.
  • The doctor has to be informed if you are currently taking any medications, herbs, or supplements.
  • If you are sensitive or allergic to anything, inform the doctor about the same.
  • The doctor reviews your medical history and diagnostic test results to pinpoint the exact area that requires treatment. This radiation planning session is called simulation.
  • IMRT is usually performed one to two weeks after stimulation.
  • Simulation helps the doctor to deliver radiation accurately to the tumor causing minimal or no damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.
  • You are asked to lie still on a table, while imaging scans like CT scans, MRI scans, or PET scans may be done to define the treatment field, also known as the treatment port. These are the exact places where the radiation beams will be aimed during treatment.
  • A special custom-fit mask, cast, or mold of a body part is made to ensure that you stay in the same position for every therapy session.
  • The doctor marks the treatment field with small dots using semi-permanent ink. You should avoid the use of a scrub or soap on these marks till the treatment gets completed.
  • The doctor may sometimes choose to mark the treatment area using permanent dots, like a tattoo.

What is the procedure for IMRT?

  • IMRT often needs multiple or fractionated treatment sessions on different days.
  • The radiation oncologist will consider the location, size, and type of tumor, doses to the normal structures, and the health of the patient to decide the number of treatment sessions needed.
  • Usually, the patient is scheduled for an IMRT session five days a week for five to eight weeks.
  • The patient is first positioned on the treatment table, guided by the marks made on the skin.
  • The mold, mask, or cast made will help the patient to stay in the same position and stay still during each treatment session.
  • Imaging tests may be used to check the marker location and positioning of the patient.
  • A machine delivers the radiation dose in a manner to conform more precisely to the three-dimensional shape of the tumor. This is done by modulating or changing the radiation beam into multiple smaller beams.
  • This method enables the delivery of a higher dose of radiation to the tumor while sparing the healthy tissue around it.
  • For the delivery of these smaller beams, the machine forms the radiation into different shapes throughout therapy.
  • The patient does not feel any pain during the procedure.
  • The doctor’s team monitors the treatment session from an adjacent room. You can interact with the doctor via a microphone.
  • The entire IMRT session lasts for about 15 to 60 minutes.

How to care after IMRT?

  • IMRT does not involve the placement of radiation sources inside the body. Therefore, you will not be radioactive during or after the treatment.
  • The patient can usually go home on the same day after IMRT. 
  • Side effects like skin irritation and fatigue may be noticed only after a few treatment sessions. ( Know more about- Why do people get fatigued? )
  • Regular follow-ups with the doctor are recommended after the treatment.
  • The patient will undergo physical evaluation, blood tests, and imaging tests during these follow-up sessions to check if cancer has been removed entirely or if additional treatment is needed.
  • Even if cancer has been cured, the patient needs to continue regular follow-ups to check for recurrence of cancer. 

What are the risks of IMRT?

The side effects associated with IMRT are:

  • Loss of hair in the treatment area
  • Irritation, redness, swelling, or sensitivity of the skin in the treatment area
  • Dryness, peeling, itching, and blistering of the skin in the treatment area
  • Soreness at the treatment area
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea ( Know more about- What is Diarrhea ? )
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Digestion problems
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Urinary and bladder changes
  • Brain changes
  • Lung changes
  • Kidney changes
  • Spinal cord changes
  • Infertility ( Know more about- What is Infertility in women ? )
  • Joint changes
  • Colon changes 
  • Rectal changes 
  • Lymphedema (swelling of the leg or arm due to a blockage in the lymphatic system)
  • Mouth changes
  • Secondary cancer

What is the cost of IMRT in India?

The total cost of IMRT in India can range from around INR 1,50,000 to INR 2,00,000 per session. However, many prominent hospital doctors in India specialize in IMRT. But the cost varies across different hospitals.

If you are coming from abroad, apart from the cost of IMRT, there will be an additional cost of living in a hotel and the cost of local travel. So, the total cost of IMRT in India comes to a total of INR 1,95,000 to INR 2,60,000 per session.

We hope that we could answer all your questions regarding IMRT through this article.

If you need more information about IMRT you can contact a Radiation Oncologist.

We only aim to provide you with information through this article. We do not recommend any medication or treatment to anyone. Only a qualified doctor can give you good advice and the correct treatment plan.


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