Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) is a procedure used to treat cancer. It combines radiation treatments with CT or MRI images to target the cancer with greater precision. When used, it is frequently combined with another type of radiation therapy called IMRT.
Before you begin radiation therapy, your doctor will order scans (pictures) of your cancer. These pictures help your care team confirm the exact location of the cancer in your body.
IGRT uses a machine to send radiation through your body and into your tumor. What makes IGRT unique is that the machine is mounted with imaging equipment.
Your doctor will use the imaging equipment to take pictures of your cancer before and during each treatment session. He or she will compare the new pictures to the original scans taken before you began radiation therapy.
By reviewing these images, your doctor can make sure your tumor hasn’t moved or changed size. He or she can also ensure radiation is precisely hitting the tumor, while limiting radiation to the healthy tissue around it.
IGRT is usually used to treat tumors that move during treatment because of breathing, digestion or other bodily functions. Tumors in the chest, upper abdoment, spine and prostate are especially prone to movement. IGRT is also ideal for treating cancer that is next to important organs, such as the heart.
All types of radiation therapy kill cancer cells. But IGRT offers several advantages. These include:
Mercy offers the latest generation of IGRT technology.
For example, some locations use the Calypso system to treat prostate cancer. It provides real-time tracking so the tumor stays in the path of the radiation beam at all times.
Your Mercy care team will make sure you understand what to expect before, during and after IGRT treatment.
Some patients will need to have tiny “markers” called fiducials placed in their body, or small tattoos inked on their skin. These markers and tattoos help your care team quickly locate your tumor. They also ensure your body is positioned correctly during each treatment.
Like any form of radiation therapy, IGRT may cause temporary side effects. These often include fatigue and skin changes (such as redness, itching or peeling). You may also have side effects in the specific part of your body receiving radiation. For example, if your cancer is in your head, you may have hair loss or headaches.
If you have questions or concerns about IGRT, don't hesitate to talk to one of your Mercy caregivers. Our goal is to put cancer behind you, so you can move forward and enjoy life to its fullest.
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