How is IMRT Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy changing the fight against cancer? If you didn’t know, cancer represents a group of diseases which is defined as an abnormal and uncontrolled growth and spread of white cells in our bodies.
There are over 100 types of cancer known, but most of them are treatable and 100% curable if found in early stages.
Although the vast majority of cancers is diagnosed in people over 55 years of age, there is no guarantee that younger persons, including children, will not develop a form of cancer in the early stages of life. There are numerous methods of treating cancer. Unfortunately, depending on the type and how it has spread, some of these cures will leave side effects, sometimes these side effects can last forever.
What Is Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy?
This particular technique is used to kill cancerous cells and is based on linear accelerators which produce and deliver certain doses of radiation in order to eradicate the tumor. IMRT is precisely targeted on the tumor or cancerous cells. The dose level radiation is determined according to the embattled tissue. Learn the history of Radiation Therapy.
The procedure is painless and only affects the cancerous cells, while the tissue surrounding the cancerous cells does receive a minimum dose of radiation, it is generally harmless.
This particular method is less damaging than other radiation cancer treatments and has been successfully used on thousands of patients thus far. The main types of cancers treated using the IMRT method are: cancer of prostate, neck and cancers in the nervous system.
Occasionally, IMRT is used to treat breast, gynecological and/or thyroid cancers. Duly note, this therapy is slightly more complicated than regular radiation therapies, accordingly the treatment might take longer.
Is IMRT The Right Cancer Treatment For You?
Before committing to any treatment you should speak in detail with your oncologist. He will then perform an examination and will be the one giving you the verdict whether or not IMRT is the best medical option for you.
By using a CT scan, your physician will then create a treatment simulation session in which you will know exactly what will happen during the procedure and how many chances of remission you have.
Who Is Involved In The Procedure?
If your doctor decided that IMRT is the right cancer therapy for you, you should know that there is a long journey ahead before your cancer will enter into remission. The team performing therapy is specialized in IMRT and includes a radiation oncologist, a Medical Dosimetrist, a medical physicist, a Radiation Therapist, as well as a radiation therapy nurse.
All these people have precise rules and steps to follow before, during and after the procedure. The radiation therapy nurse will be the one monitoring your evolution after the treatment and will help you cope with the side effects of the treatment, under the strict supervision of the physician.
Getting Prepared For The Procedure
As previously mentioned, the IMRT for treating cancer is a long-term procedure which must be conducted perfectly in order to deliver the desired results.
At first, you will undergo a physical examination performed by your physician or oncologist and your entire medical history will be reviewed. Afterwards, the IMRT team will perform a treatment simulation session, along with the CT scanning previously mentioned.
Next, the treatment preparation requires molding a special device that will help maintain the patient in the same position during the treatment in order to minimize the radiations on healthy tissues.
Additionally, the patient might have to follow a certain bladder or bowel preparation before engaging in the treatment. In certain cases, you might have to be injected with a contrasting material in order to better detect the exact location of your tumor.
Usually, the IMRT sessions for fighting cancer begin one week after the entire simulation is conducted and the patient is fully prepared.
What Are The Side Effects Of This Procedure?
Just like any other radiation-based therapy, patients will experience some mild or severe side effects, both on the short term, as well as on the long term. The procedure itself is non-harmful, thus you will not feel any pain during the treatment.
Some mild side effects might occur immediately after the procedure, depending on the dose of radiations you were exposed to during the treatment. The most common short term side effects of the procedure include skin problems, fatigue and tiredness.
The treated area might turn red and sensitive and might swell, blister, itch or peel. These effects are normal and often disappear within a few weeks.
Again, depending on the size of the area treated, you might also experience some of the following: hair loss in the treated area, digestion problems, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches.
There are also some late side effects that might occur months and even years after the treatment was successfully conducted and are often irreversible.
These include lung, brain, kidney, spinal cord, colon or rectal changes, infertility or secondary cancer. This is why it is important to not only talk to your doctor, but also talk with your loved ones prior to beginning any type of cancer medical treatment, including IMRT.