How Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) Works

IMRT is an advanced form of noninvasive radiation therapy that utilizes computer-guided x-rays to precisely target and destroy cancer cells while avoiding healthy tissue.

Using high-speed computers and special imaging devices, the Coastal radiation oncology team is able to control the intensity and size of a radiation beam and adjust it hundreds of times throughout a single treatment.  The result is that a beam of radiation can be shaped around a cancerous tumor to avoid healthy tissue. Furthermore, the intensity of the beam can be blocked, filtered and adjusted to most effectively radiate a tumor and destroy a cancer cells’ DNA—preventing a tumor from growing and spreading.

In order to precisely target a tumor using IMRT, Coastal’s expert radiation oncologists and experienced treatment specialists will collect a variety of diagnostic images using three-dimensional computed tomographic (3DCT) scans and/or magnetic resonance images (MRI) to learn the exact location of a cancerous tumor. Depending on the placement of a tumor and the sensitivity of the surrounding tissue, the treatment team may utilize a positioning device to help a patient stay perfectly still while undergoing treatment. In some cases, our treatment team may also implant tiny gold seeds in or near a tumor to help them identify it clearly on imaging devices and ensure the most effective treatment.

IMRT is commonly used to treat prostate cancer, head and neck cancer, and cancers of the central nervous system. These sensitive areas require the utmost precision so IMRT is often an optimal treatment option. IMRT may also be used in treating some cases of breast, thyroid, lung, gastrointestinal, and gynecologic cancers.