3DCRT uses computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), or a combination of PET and CT scans to create a customized radiation distribution to deliver doses of radiation that conform to the exact 3D shape and size of a tumor. This technique allows for the maximum allowable dose of radiation to the tumor while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
What is the 3D Conformal Radiation Therapy Process?
3D Conformal Radiation Therapy (3DCRT) is not a single procedure, but takes place over multiple sessions. These small but frequent doses of radiation allow healthy tissues surrounding a tumor to heal. The duration of an individual’s procedure depends on the amount of radiation needed, the size and location of the tumor, the type of tumor, and the patient’s health.
Your radiation oncologist first plans your entire treatment, and then works with a specialized team to ensure safe and accurate delivery of 3DCRT.
Example of 3DCRT scan. Image courtesy of Open-i Biomedical Images.
3DCRT Planning Includes:
Making 3-D images of the tumor
Ensuring the linear accelerator produces beams in the exact shape of the tumor
Optimizing the dose of radiation for each treatment session
Verifying that the dose of radiation needed to treat the tumor is correct
Adjusting doses as necessary
Marking your skin to help ensure precision during each treatment session
Creating casts or molds to help you remain immobilized during treatment
Since radiation is focused precisely on the tumor and not the surrounding healthy tissue, it is important for you to remain still during the treatment process. This way, the radiation therapy remains directed at the tumor instead of damaging healthy tissue.
The location of some tumors can lead to awkward or uncomfortable positioning, so masks, casts, and other devices may be used to help you stay in place.
3DCRT takes place in small, frequent doses followed by short weekend breaks. This structure allows healthy tissue surrounding the tumor to heal. The total amount of radiation required for a tumor will depend on the size and location of the tumor, type of tumor, and patient’s overall health. The less radiation required, the shorter the duration of the therapy.
What to Expect During 3DCRT Treatment:
Treatments generally last 15 – 30 minutes, but can be longer depending on whether any additional scans or checks need to be made.
The 3DCRT treatment is painless, so you will not feel any discomfort.
You can ask for the treatment to be stopped at any time for any reason, whether you are uncomfortable from your positioning or otherwise.
Your radiation therapist will be in a nearby room controlling the linear accelerator. He will be able to see you through a TV screen and communicate with you through speakers.
You will not experience any pain during IMRT treatment. However, you may stop the procedure at any time if you discomfort from side effects or from your positioning.
The radiation oncologist oversees the entire process ensuring that everything is performed accurately.
After treatment, your radiation oncologist and radiation therapy nurse will help you prepare for any Side Effects following treatment. They are also more than happy to help with any questions or concerns.
Side Effects of 3D Conformal Radiation Therapy
Since 3D Conformal Radiation Therapy (3DCRT) is very precise and does not interact with much healthy tissue, some patients do not experience side effects at all. Side effects vary from person to person, and are usually related to the treatment area. At Blue Ridge Radiation Oncology, we use 3DCRT to treat Lung Cancer.
Common Side Effects of 3DCRT Treatment for Lung Cancer:
Loss of appetite
Changes in taste
Most short-term side effects of 3DCRT can be treated with medication to improve comfort. Side effects generally go away within 4 – 6 weeks of the final treatment.
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AnMed Health & Blue Ridge Radiation Oncology are charter members of Levine Cancer Institute's cancer care network. Carolinas HealthCare System's Levine Cancer Institute aims to build "a cancer institute without walls," by increasing access to specialist consultations, research offerings, program offerings and services to member institutions throughout the Carolinas.