Tomotherapy (also called helical tomotherapy) is a type of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) in which radiation is aimed at the tumor from many different directions. The radiation itself is delivered as a single beam divided into laser-thin “beamlets.” Tomotherapy radiation is typically used to treat hard-to-reach prostate cancer tumors that are attached or close to healthy tissues and organs. While a high dose of radiation may be used to kill tumor cells, damage to surrounding tissues is minimized.
Before Tomotherapy Radiation
Before beginning tomotherapy radiation, your physician will put together a treatment plan using 3D images of your tumor(s) and surrounding organs or tissues. These images will be used by your physician to determine the appropriate dose of radiation. Immediately before each radiation treatment session, the tomotherapy machine will capture CT images in which your care team will use to check the size, shape, and location of your tumor(s). Your care team will compare these images with the one taken during the treatment planning stage to determine if dosage, intensity, or directional adjustments are needed.
During Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy typically involves daily sessions, Monday through Friday, for five to nine weeks. On average, each tomotherapy session takes about 20 minutes. During the treatment session, you will be asked to lie on the treatment table and the table will move through a donut-shaped machine to the point of the cancerous tissue. As you lie still, the radiation source in the machine rotates completely around you in a spiral pattern in the same manner as a normal CT imaging scanner. Based on the dose, the machine automatically delivers the appropriate pattern, position, and intensity of the radiation. You may hear mechanical noises coming from the machine, but you will not feel pain.
After Tomotherapy Radiation
As less radiation reaches healthy tissues and organs in tomotherapy, there are fewer side effects associated with this treatment option. If any side effects are experienced, generally, they are due to the radiation. Early side effects of radiation can include skin irritation, loss of appetite, tiredness, fatigue, and a dry mouth or throat. Throughout your tomotherapy treatment, you will meet regularly with your physician to discuss your progress. If you are concerned about any side effects you are experiencing, be sure to inform your physician at any time.