What is Tomotherapy?

Sara Schmidt

Patients with cancer and other diseases often require some form of radiation to treat their illness. Tomotherapy is one such radiation therapy. It is a treatment during which radiation is administered in segments rather than fully targeted on an entire tumor.

Tomotherapy machines are created in a way that is similar to that of CT scan machines.
Tomotherapy machines are created in a way that is similar to that of CT scan machines.

Tomotherapy, a form of intensity modulated radiation therapy, is considered a slice-by-slice treatment. Its name, from the Greek prefix tomo, means slice. To conduct radiation on malignant tumors in such a manner, tomotherapy machines are created in a form similar to a CAT scan, or CT scan, machine. This CT imaging structure allows computerized tomography to conduct rapid CT scans as well as to quickly calculate the patient's individual needs and the most optimal places to deliver treatment.

Some brain tumors are treated with tomotherapy.
Some brain tumors are treated with tomotherapy.

During a tomography treatment, a patient is first given a CT scan. If he or she is aligned perfectly, the procedure continues as the patient enters the tomotherapy machine. As this occurs, a thin light beam rotates around his or her body, administering radiation to select parts of the body where tumors are present. Technicians can prevent the radiation from entering parts of the body where it is unnecessary.

This type of treatment is valuable for several different oncology concerns. Healthcare professionals may use tomotherapy for treating multiple metastases, or places where tumors have spread, at once. It has also been found effective in diminishing prostate, lung, and breast cancers. When a patient has many metastases throughout the body, this therapy can be helpful in treating the tumors simultaneously, preventing additional multiple treatments.

The procedure can also be used in retreating areas that have already been irradiated before, which can be considered unsafe if done through other procedures. Brain tumors, which usually rely on cyberknife, gamma-knife, or other types of radiosurgery, can be treated with tomotherapy as well. In this use, it can also prevent healthy brain cells from being unnecessarily destroyed.

Considered a versatile treatment, tomotherapy can be used for any sized tumor. Both single and multiple body regions may be treated with the technology. If different dosages are required throughout the regions, they can be altered on a region by region basis as well. For example, a small amount of radiation may be delivered to one area while a large amount can be administered to a separate region.

Some patients are not considered optimal candidates for this therapy. While each patient is different, and may respond to treatment differently, those with more than 10 metastases may not receive the best results. Widespread malignant tumors in organs may not benefit from the procedure. For best results, patients who do receive this treatment should be in relatively good health and physical shape.

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