By William M. Mendenhall, MD
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a treatment technique that allows the area irradiated to conform more precisely to the tumor. Treatment of head and neck cancers with IMRT is particularly challenging because, in addition to the gross tumor (cancer that can be seen or felt on a physical exam and/or radiographic studies), sites of subclinical disease (areas where the tumor may have spread) must be treated to different doses. Additionally, the chance of cure if the tumor recurs after irradiation is usually low. Nevertheless, IMRT offers the possibility of lower long-term side effects such as dry mouth, and thus may result in improved quality of life.
Modern treatment techniques, such as IMRT and volumetric-modulated radiation therapy (VMAT), are employed using our medical linear accelerators (LINAC) for the majority of patients. In addition, our department offers specialized treatments such as total body irradiation (TBI), total skin electron therapy (TSET), stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), Fractionated stereotactic radiosurgery (FSRS), and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). The department is constantly evaluating new technologies in order to bring the best options to our patients.