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Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy

Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a type of radiation therapy that uses a state-of-the-art beam shaping device, known as a multi-leaf collimator, to manipulate beams of radiation to conform to the shape of a tumor, while avoiding healthy organs and tissue.

IMRT radiation is used to treat tumors in areas that are in close proximity to critical structures that need to be avoided. These tumors include head and neck cancers, brain tumors and prostate cancer. IMRT uses multiple small radiation beams of varying intensities to precisely irradiate a tumor. The radiation intensity of each beam is controlled, and the beam shape changes throughout each treatment.

IMRT also allows higher radiation doses to be focused to regions within the tumor while minimizing the dose to surrounding normal tissues. With IMRT, higher and more effective radiation doses can be delivered to tumors with fewer side effects compared with conventional radiotherapy techniques.

Ongoing image guided radiation treatment (IGRT) may also be incorporated into IMRT to ensure accuracy of the treatment plan. IGRT allows the physician to image the tumor before and even during radiation treatment to make any necessary adjustments to the patient’s position or the angle of radiation beams.

Side Effects of IMRT

IMRT is a pain-free outpatient procedure. The side effects of IMRT radiation include problems that occur as a result of the treatment itself, as well as from radiation damage to healthy cells in the treatment area.

The number and severity of side effects associated with IMRT will depend on the type and dosage of radiation given and the part of the body being treated.

IMRT radiation may cause early and late side effects. Early side effects occur during or immediately after treatment and typically resolve within a few weeks. Common early side effects include fatigue and sensitivity, redness or swelling of the skin in the treatment area.

Depending on the treatment area, other early side effects of IMRT may include:

  • Hair loss in the treatment area
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Problems with eating and digestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Soreness and swelling in the treatment area
  • Urinary and bladder changes

Late side effects are rare and may occur months, or even years, following treatment. Often, late side effects are permanent. Late side effects of IMRT radiation may include:

  • Brain and spinal cord changes
  • Lung changes
  • Kidney changes
  • Colon and rectum changes
  • Infertility
  • Joint changes
  • Secondary cancer

A Commitment to the Well-Being of Each Patient

At the Department of Radiation Oncology, our board-certified radiation oncologists are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to deliver state-of-the-art cancer treatment. We pride ourselves on our ability to provide a caring and supportive environment for all of our patients and their families.

Call (973) 322-5630 to schedule an appointment.