Conformal Radiation Therapy

Three dimensional (3-D) conformal radiation therapy is the latest technique where the beams of radiation used in treatment are shaped to match the tumor. 3-D conformal radiation therapy uses computers to create a 3-dimensional picture of the tumor in order to target the tumor as accurately as possible and give it the highest possible dose of radiation while sparing healthy tissue as much as possible. It is also known as 3-D or conformational radiation therapy.

Conventional radiation therapy directs X-rays not only at the tumor but also unavoidably at nearby normal tissue. Conformal radiation is meant to deliver accurate and a higher dose of radiation to the cancer without causing much damage to surrounding tissues.

Conformal radiation therapy is in use to treat prostate cancer and is under study with other types of cancer including lung cancer, brain tumors and cancer of the head and neck.

The procedure begins with taking a 3-D image of the tumor, often using computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), or PET/CT imaging. The 3-D image is then analyzed by a computer program which designs radiation beams that follow the shape of the tumor. During treatment, beams from several directions precisely match the tumor's height, width and depth. The patient is immobilized in a foam mold to target the radiation more accurately to the tumor and not the adjacent tissues.

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