Throughout the recent century, many new developments have been made in the field of medicine. In particular, progress has bee n made in the treatment of cancer. Now, there are a variety of treatment programs that can be undertaken by cancer patients. With such a massive amount of research and development taking place each year into how to prevent and stop cancer, new ideas are regularly being generated.
Many of these ideas involve the use of heavy machinery, which can be used to treat patients. Probably the most commonly used method of treatment for moderate to severe cancer is IMRT – intensity-modulated radiation therapy. This type of treatment involves radiation being used to kill cancer cells that are developing inside the patient’s body. Currently, IMRT has reasonable success rates, and improvements are constantly being made. Until the next breakthrough in medical science, they are likely to be widely used by the vast majority of hospitals to treat those with cancerous tumors.
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy uses linear accelerators to administer doses of radiation to patients. The radiation itself is produced within the waveguide of the linear accelerator, in a process of electron collisions. High energy x-rays are produced and these are collected into a narrow beam. This beam is directed out of the machinery and into the patient’s body (towards the cancer). The x-rays have enough energy to kill the cancerous cells. As the beam is highly precise, most healthy cells remain untouched by the radiation.
Recent innovation in IMRT technology has allowed computers connected to the linear accelerator to form a three dimensional image of the tumor. This image can then be used by the machine to effectively target the cancer, by modulating the intensity of the x-ray beam in numerous small volumes. The machine can be rotated around the patient to allow the radiation to enter the body at the correct angle. The patient sits in a special chair, which can also have its position altered.
Usually, intensity-modulated radiation therapy is used to treat cancers of the head, neck and prostate. In some cases (depending on the location of the tumor) it can be used to treat tumors in the central nervous system, the thyroid and the lung, as well as number of other areas. If the cancer is located deeper within the body, the treatment may not be as effective. But in most cases, IMRT is capable of at least stopping the cancer cells from growing and dividing, meaning the tumor can no longer grow.
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy can be very intense. Typically, a patient will attend around five sessions a week, for a period of around ten weeks. One session will last around twenty minutes. After this, the effectiveness of the treatment will be assessed.
Machinery used in IMRT – such as linear accelerators – can be purchased from Acceletronics, an American supplier that specializes in providing radiography equipment. The machinery can be bought new or refurbished and delivered at a reasonable price. Alternatively, a fully trained technician can install the machinery for you.