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What Is Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)?

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) gives radiation therapists the ability to "sculpt" the edges of a tumor, minimizing the damage to adjacent healthy tissue.

Tumors are irregularly shaped, but conventional radiation treatments deliver radiation in straight lines. This means that — while the whole tumor receives radiation — any healthy tissue close to the tumor may get radiation as well.

IMRT technology allows the radiation oncologist to deliver radiation to a tumor with more precision and accuracy, resulting in the potential for fewer side effects and higher cure rates.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy Session: What to Expect

  • IMRT imaging for a patient with head and neck cancerYour radiation oncologist will use 3D scans to visually chart the location of the tumor and surrounding normal tissue.
  • Once charted, a physicist uses this data to create a virtual reality simulation to plot your radiation treatment targeting the exact shape of the tumor. An ideal treatment plan can take hours of calculations.
  • Once the physicist plots the target, he or she sends the treatment plan back to UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.
  • A computer program then electronically transfers the plan to a linear accelerator — the machine that delivers radiation treatments.
  • The linear accelerator delivers radiation beams in about 300 different segments. It focuses the radiation on the tumor, while lessening the dose passing through healthy tissue.

Benefits of Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy

Standard radiation therapy affects both cancerous and normal surrounding tissue causing side effects such as:

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mouth and throat ulcers

With IMRT, people experience significantly lower treatment-related side effects.

IMRT also offers the potential for higher cure rates.

IMRT Treatment Locations

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy is available at many UPMC Hillman Cancer Center radiation oncology network locations.

Contact Us About IMRT at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

To learn more about radiation oncology treatments at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, please call us at 412-647-2811.