VMAT (Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy)

August 9, 2022 Cancer Hub 285 Views

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What is the meaning of VMAT?

Volumetric modulated arc therapy or VMAT is an advanced type of radiation therapy technique that involves the use of external beam radiation therapy directed in a series of angles or arcs to treat tumors. The radiation in VMAT is delivered by the linear accelerator or LINAC machine. As this machine moves, it automatically changes the shape of the radiation beam and the treatment dose. This makes VMAT more accurate and targeted than single beam radiation therapy. VMAT is a type of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), in which the radiation dose is varied continuously throughout the treatment.  VMAT provides extremely accurate delivery of radiation and maximizes the radiation dose targeted at the tumor while minimizing radiation to the surrounding healthy tissue. This reduces the risk of side effects that are normally seen with conventional radiation therapies.

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

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

What is the purpose of VMAT?

VMAT is used to treat the large areas of the body having uneven boundaries and tumors that are situated close to the vital organs.

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

What is the diagnostic procedure before VMAT?

The following diagnostic tests may be done before a VMAT procedure:

  • Physical examination: The doctor examines the physical health of the patient. The patient’s medical history is also noted.
  • Imaging tests: CT scans, MRI scans, or PET scans are the different imaging tests that could be performed before the procedure to obtain a clear picture of the tumor in a three-dimensional view and help the doctor in planning the VMAT procedure better.
  • Endoscopy: An endoscope (a tube with a camera on one end) can be used by the doctor to check the affected organ internally.  ( Know more about- What is Endoscopy? )
  • Blood tests: Certain underlying medical disorders can be checked with the help of blood tests.
  • Biopsy: The doctor removes the suspected tissue growth surgically and sends it to the laboratory, where it is checked under the microscope for the presence of cancer cells and the type of cancer cells that may be present.

How to prepare for VMAT?

  • You should inform your doctor if you have any medical conditions.
  • You should inform your doctor about any herbs, supplements, or medications that you are currently taking.
  • If you have a known allergy to anything, inform the doctor about the same.
  • The doctor will review your medical history and diagnostic test results to pinpoint the exact area that may need treatment. This radiation planning session is known as simulation.
  • VMAT session is usually scheduled one to two weeks after simulation.
  • Simulation aids the doctor in delivering radiation accurately to the tumor, leading to minimal or no damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.
  • You will be asked to lie still on a table, while imaging scans like CT scans, MRI scans, or PET scans are performed to define the treatment field or treatment port. These are the precise locations where the doctor will aim the radiation beams during treatment.
  • A special custom-fit cast, mask, or mold of a body part is made. This ensures that you will stay in the same position for every subsequent therapy session.
  • The doctor will mark the treatment field with tiny dots using semi-permanent ink. Sometimes, the treatment area is marked using permanent dots, such as a tattoo.

What is the procedure for VMAT?

  • You will first lie down on the radiation therapy bed in the treatment position determined by the doctor during the simulation.
  • The correct position is confirmed by checking the marks made by the doctor and by taking a CT scan.
  • Once the doctor confirms that you are in the correct position, the doctor will leave the room and move into an adjacent room, where you will be monitored. You can speak to the doctor during your treatment via a microphone.
  • The radiation machine, known as a linear accelerator, now rotates around the body to deliver focused radiation beams to the tumor in uninterrupted arcs.
  • As the radiation machine rotates around the body, the intensity and shape of the radiation beams change continuously to fit closely to the shape of the tumor that is being treated.
  • This method ensures that a minimum amount of radiation is delivered to the surrounding healthy tissues while increasing the amount of radiation provided to cancer.
  • You will be able to see and hear the machine moving around you. However, you will not feel anything during the procedure.
  • The actual radiation therapy takes only about two to four minutes. However, the entire treatment session, including the preparation done before the procedure, will take about twenty to sixty minutes.

How to care after VMAT?

  • You can usually go home immediately after a VMAT session.
  • VMAT does not make you radioactive during or after the treatment. Hence, you can go around pregnant women, children, and others after treatment.
  • Some patients may experience side effects like skin irritation and fatigue only after a couple of treatment sessions.
  • You should go to your doctor for regular follow-ups after the treatment.
  • You will undergo a physical examination, blood tests, and imaging tests during these follow-up sessions to check if cancer has been removed completely, or if additional treatment is needed.
  • Even if cancer has been completely cured, you should still go for regular follow-ups to check for recurrence of cancer.

What are the risks of VMAT?

The side effects of VMAT are:

Side effects associated with VMAT are usually mild and usually resolve within three to four weeks.

What is the cost of VMAT in India?

The total cost of VMAT in India can range from around INR 2,50,000 to INR 3,50,000 per session. However, many prominent hospital doctors in India specialize in VMAT. But the cost varies across different hospitals. 

If you are coming from abroad, apart from the cost of VMAT, there will be an additional cost of living in a hotel and the cost of local travel. So, the total cost of VMAT in India comes to a total of INR 3,25,000 to INR 4,55,000 per session. 

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

If you need more information about VMAT, 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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