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Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) is a type of conformal radiotherapy, a technology that enables the radiation oncologist to precisely target the tissues with cancer cells. . In this type of radiation therapy for cancer, the radiation beams closely take up the shape of the area that is being targeted.

IMRT is delivered through the standard radiotherapy machine, which is also known as the linear accelerator (LINAC). This machine has a device called multileaf collimator, which possesses lead leaves that can move independently to form a shape that best fits the target area.

Because the radiation beams can take up the shape of the target area, high dosage of radiation can be delivered to kill the cancer cells while minimizing exposure to the non-cancerous cells and tissues. IMRT proves to be highly effective in the case of head and neck cancer among other types of cancer.IMRT for prostate cancer is now available across all major hospitals around the world.

The efficiency of IMRT has already been tested for multiple cancers, including breast cancer. Latest advancements improving the efficacy of radiotherapy, however, continue to take place in the field of healthcare. This radiation treatment for cancer is already being used as a standard treatment for some cancer types.

Before the procedure, there is a planning phase wherein you are required to undergo a few tests so that the radiation oncologist can better plan your treatment. You will be required to undergo an MRI and PET scans, in addition to a CT scan during this phase.

The information retrieved from these scans is directly fed to the radiotherapy planning computer. The treatment team makes precise dose calculations to analyzes the scans to come up with the most suitable treatment plan for the patient.

Just before the first IMRT session, the radiographers may mark the specific area of the body where the radiation is supposed to be delivered. These marks are first looked at for reference before each radiotherapy session in the future.

You may also be asked to wear specific masks in case of head and neck cancer to keep the targeted area still during the treatment. These masks and moulds can also be created for other parts of the body, including limbs and breasts.

Typically, the following steps are performed during the IMRT session:

  • The patient is made to lie on a radiotherapy table.
  • The radiographers will make the patient lie in a suitable position and adjust the mould if any.
  • The staff leaves the patient alone in the room and IMRT dose is administered through LINAC accelerator or some other radiotherapy machine.
  • The radiation oncologist and the radiographers carefully observe the patient from the closed room.
  • The team may ask the patient to take shallow breaths or hold their breath for a few seconds.
  • The mould is removed once the session is over.

A typical IMRT session lasts for about 15 to 30 minutes.

IMRTradiation therapy for cancer is a painless procedure. The patient does not feel anything during the radiotherapy session. However, there could be some level of discomfort due to posture or the use of masks and moulds. After this radiation treatment for cancer, the patient is made to lie on the table for a few minutes after the treatment to relax.

A few patients may experience increased frequency of urination or a sudden urge to urinate. Patients are advised to drink at least six to eight glasses of water every day to recover quickly from the session. Additionally, they should try to avoid excess consumption of spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol during the recovery phase.

Recovery Process post-Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) 

Some patients may feel excessive tiredness and fatigue during the course of radiation treatment. Such patients should plan their daily activities and take several short naps during the day to manage their energy levels. Additionally, they are advised to take high protein and high-calorie foods during and after the treatment.

Patients should use a non-scented soap to clean the area that has been exposed to radiation. Additionally, they should keep their skin moisturized.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is conformal radiotherapy?

A: IMRT is a type of conformal therapy, which means that the shape of the radiation beams closely fit the target area. As a result, high-intensity radiation is delivered to the target area while minimizing the impact of the nearby cells and tissues.

Q: Q: How long does IMRT for prostate cancer and other tumors take?

A: IMRT treatment is administered for five days a week for about 30 to 60 days, depending on the needs of the patient. A typical session may last anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes.

Q: What are the side effects of IMRT?

A: Difficulty swallowing, hair loss, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, bladder changes, and digestion issues are some of the side effects of radiation therapy.

Q: Can you drink alcohol while undergoing radiation therapy?

A: While a moderate amount of alcohol may not interfere with the treatment, alcohol is best avoided during radiotherapy treatment. Ask your doctor before taking alcohol during the treatment.

Q: Is radiation treatment painful?

A: No, radiation therapy is not painful. However, there may be some side effects.