IMRT: Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy

It has been proven that high doses of radiation can kill cancer cells and keep them from growing and dividing.  The Community Oncology Center’s SMARTBEAM™ IMRT system provides Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) for cancer patients. IMRT is used to treat tumors in the brain, breast, head and neck, liver, lung, pancreas, prostate and uterus.

IMRT is delivered by physicians of Cancer Care Group, the largest practicing group of radiation oncologists in Indiana today.  Howard Regional is proud to be one of 15 community-based cancer centers that comprise Cancer Care Group’s network.

IMRT delivers high doses of radiation directly to cancer cells in a very targeted way, much more precisely than is possible with conventional radiotherapy.  This precision spares surrounding healthy tissue and can be used to treat tumors that might have been considered untreatable in the past because of their proximity to vital organs and structures.  By reducing the amount of radiation to healthy tissue, IMRT can increase the rate of tumor control while significantly reducing adverse side effects.

A powerful computer program develops a treatment plan based on a physician’s dose instructions and information about tumor size, shape and location in the body.  A medical linear accelerator equipped with a special device (called a multileaf collimeter) shapes the radiation beam and delivers the radiation.  The equipment can be rotated around the patient to send radiation beams from the best angles for giving the tumor a high dose while preserving important healthy tissue.

Frequently Asked Questions About IMRT

Why would I want to be treated with IMRT?

IMRT is the most precise form of radiation therapy available.  It allows physicians to increase the dose to cancer cells… and in some cases, even more precisely to specific regions within the tumor while keeping the dose to surrounding tissues as low as possible.

What kind of radiation is used in IMRT?

Currently, x-rays are used to deliver IMRT.

Does radiation therapy expose people to radioactive substances?

Many people, when they hear the word "radiation," think of radioactive substances.  However, no radioactive substances are involved in the creation of x-rays or electrons by a linear accelerator.  Turning on a linear accelerator produces radiation in the form of x-rays that is aimed directly at cancer cells.  When the linear accelerator is switched off, there is no more radiation.

How long is a course of IMRT treatment?

Radiation therapy is usually given five days a week for six to seven weeks, and each treatment lasts 15-30 minutes.  This schedule, using small amounts of daily radiation rather than a few large doses, helps protect normal body tissue in the treatment area.  Weekend rest breaks allow normal cells to recover.  Of course, the total dose and number of treatments depends on the size, location and type of cancer and the patient’s general health and other factors.

What are the side effects of IMRT?

Side effects of radiation therapy are often related to the area that is being treated.  Most, while unpleasant, are not serious and can be controlled with medication or diet.  They usually go away within a few weeks after treatment ends.  With SMARTBEAM IMRT, some patients have no side effects at all.