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New Radiation Treatment Targets Tumors more Precisely

separator A new radiation technique is allowing doctors to target tumors with greater accuracy, at higher doses, with fewer side effects. It’s called “intensity modulated radiation therapy,” or IMRT. Using computers, technicians generate images of a tumor. Then clinicians are able to treat the tumor with a precise radiation beam that corresponds to the tumor’s shape and depth. This type of treatment allows physicians to treat tumors that might not have been treatable before. 

Higher level of accuracy, fewer complications and side effects
Because the radiation is beamed so precisely at the location of the tumor, doctors can give higher dosages and patients generally experience fewer, less severe side effects. Not only are physicians able to target tumors they previously could not, they are also able to do so without damaging surrounding tissue. For example, for prostate cancer, patients can receive higher dosages of the radiation and have decreased chances of damaging the bladder or rectum. And studies have shown that increased doses of radiation for prostate cancer yield increased chances of eliminating the cancer itself. 

IMRT is useful for cancers of the prostate, head and neck, spinal cord, abdomen and pelvis. All of these are areas with delicate tissue that, if damaged, can produce serious lifelong consequences. 

Preparing patients for IMRT requires a great deal of precision. It can take five to 10 hours of preparation, which includes data transfer from computer to radiation equipment. The actual treatment takes about 15 minutes. It’s important that patients remain completely still, but even when they do, the tumors can move internally. So ultrasound equipment locates the tumor and makes sure to target the exact middle of it. 

IMRT offers new hope for patients who may not have had any treatment options previously. It also offers improved quality of life for those undergoing radiation.

The National Cancer Institute, Cartilage (Bovine and Shark) PDQ; K. Pelletier, The Best Alternative Medicine, Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 2000.
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