A Guide to Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy

Andrew Mackay

Andrew Mackay - Medical Content Writer

Posted Sep 11, 2020

Doctor speaking to man about prostate cancer treatment options.

Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is an innovative prostate cancer treatment that uses external beam radiation therapy. Contributing to the second most cancer-related deaths in men in the US, facing prostate cancer can be a daunting prospect for many. Thankfully, the advancement of treatments like IMRT are providing new ways to defeat the illness. But, how does it work, who is eligible, and how expensive is the procedure? We’ll discuss all of this and more, to try and give you a better understanding of this treatment.

What Is IMRT?

Simply put, IMRT is an advanced type of radiation therapy that’s used to tackle cancerous cells. The technique was developed in the late 1980s and makes use of both computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to target the affected areas. The treatment is carried out by a radiation oncologist and is typically performed on men with localized prostate cancer, however it can also be used to treat other types of cancer.

Planning Your IMRT: Things to Think About

Before beginning to plan your IMRT treatment, there are some common questions that a doctor is likely to ask you about. It’s good to have the following in mind.

  • What is your PSA value?

  • Do you have medical reports you could share?

  • Do you have a confirmed case of prostate cancer?

  • Do you have histology reports?

  • Have you had previous abdominal surgeries?

  • Are you currently taking any medication?

  • Do you already have imaging, an MRI or CT scan of the abdomen?

How Does Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy Work?

There’s a few different steps involved in the IMRT process. It takes some time to plan out the treatment to ensure that everything runs smoothly and efficiently. Once underway, the treatment works by delivering radiation to cancer cells from different directions and angles. In doing so, more targeted and effective doses of radiation can be administered with a lower risk of damaging surrounding healthy tissues and organs. Below, we’ve laid out a step by step breakdown of what you can expect during IMRT.

Initial Checks and Tests

Imaging Testing

The First Treatment Session

Following Treatment Sessions

Post-Treatment Check-Ups

Are There Any Side Effects?

There are potential side effects when it comes to IMRT, however these vary from person to person. Some patients may experience no side effects at all, while others may experience them for a long time after their treatment is finished. The presence and severity of side effects can be dependent on:

  • Your general health before the treatment begins

  • The dosage of radiation that you receive to treat the cancerous cells.

There are a range of side effects that can occur from IMRT. These include things as simple as fatigue and loss of appetite, as well as erectile dysfunction, difficulty urinating, and irritated skin. It’s important to remember though that while side effects may be something you experience, IMRT’s accurate targeting of cancerous cells protects the healthy ones surrounding them. This generally means that any side effects are likely to be less severe than in other cancer treatments. Your doctor will discuss this with you in detail before your treatment sessions begin. And remember that your Qunomedical Patient Manager is also available for support and advice.

What Are the Benefits of Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy?

Intensity modulated radiation therapy is a clever and innovative procedure. It works effectively by adjusting — or modulating — the radiation doses to allow them to fit more precisely to the 3D shape of the tumour. This causes the radiation beams to multiply and become smaller. The machine administering the radiation also delivers it in various shapes throughout the treatment. In doing so, the smaller, differently shaped radiation beams can be more directly targeted onto the damaged cells, with a smaller risk of damaging the healthy ones around it.

Having Children After IMRT

If you’re looking to start a family, it’s important that you discuss this with your doctor before your treatment begins. They can provide you with advice on how to best plan this. One common option is to use a sperm bank and freeze a sample of sperm for use after your treatment. Once you discuss this with your doctor, they will be able to refer you to a fertility specialist for more detailed information and support. This specialist may also be able to recommend other reproductive medicine techniques that may be suitable for you.

IMRT Costs: How Much Is the Treatment?

Cancer treatment abroad has become a lot more common in recent years. When it comes to IMRT, this is certainly a viable option. The average cost for intensity modulated radiation therapy in the US is $111,000. In Germany, the average cost ranges from $13,000-$17,000. This highlights the significant savings that can be made by travelling abroad for treatment. It’s also important to remember that sacrificing on price doesn’t have to mean sacrificing on quality. Doctors in Europe adhere to the same guidelines as in the US, so you can rest assured knowing that you will receive the same high-quality treatment. When in contact with Qunomedical, one of our Patient Managers will be able to provide you with detailed information about pricing with various different doctors and clinics.

Popular Doctors and Destinations

As previously mentioned, travelling abroad for IMRT provides a great opportunity for receiving high-quality care at a much lower price. Prostate cancer treatment in Germany has been one of the most popular options among past patients, with world-renowned clinics offering high-quality treatment at an affordable price. At Qunomedical, you also have the chance to view specific doctor profiles. This allows you to look into their background, qualifications, experience, and read real reviews from past patients. Dr. Rüdiger Heicappell, MD for example, is a leading urology specialist with over 30 years of experience in the field.

Starting Your Treatment Journey

Once you feel that you’re ready to take the first steps towards undergoing IMRT, get in touch with us. One of our Patient Managers will contact you with all of the information you need to get started. If you’re not sure about where or who you want to have your treatment with yet, then your Patient Manager will provide information on lots of options for this too. All of Qunomedical’s approved doctors have been thoroughly vetted with high-quality and affordability in mind. We also offer 100% free video consultations, so that you can have the initial conversations with your doctor from home.

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