Radiation Oncology: Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

Woman with glasses looking at a monitor

IMRT Conditions and Procedures in Washington, DC

Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is the most advanced form of 3D conformal radiation therapy, a technique that adjusts the radiation beam to the contours of a tumor, allowing for higher, more effective doses of radiation to be delivered while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.

This technique uses computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to create 3D images of the affected organ and surrounding tissues. Based on these images, treatment is carefully designed for each patient with selected radiation beam directions, aperture shapes, and intensities.

This precision allows high doses of radiation to be delivered to the tumor while minimizing radiation and potential damage to healthy tissue. GW has one of the best-equipped radiation oncology departments in the country and was the first facility in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region to offer IMRT to patients, beginning in 2004.

Conditions Treated

IMRT may be used in the treatment of cancers and tumors including:

  • Brain tumors
  • Breast cancer
  • Gynecologic cancer
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer


IMRT typically is administered five days a week for five to eight weeks. For each session, the patient is in the treatment room for 15 to 30 minutes. Small amounts of radiation given on a daily basis, rather than a few large doses, help reduce damage to body tissues surrounding the tumor.

Weekend rest breaks allow normal cells to recover.

The total dose of radiation and number of treatments a patient receives depend on the size, location, and type of the tumor, the patient's general health, and other factors.

The first IMRT session tends to be longer than others so that additional X-ray films and checks can be taken.

Before treatment begins, colored semi-permanent ink may be used to mark the patient's skin to indicate the alignment of the radiation equipment with the targeted area. In the treatment room, the radiation therapist uses the marks to locate the treatment area.

The patient is positioned on a treatment table. Sometimes, special molded devices are used to help with positioning.

The radiation therapist leaves the treatment room before the machine, controlled from a nearby area, is activated. The patient can be seen on a television screen or through a window in the control room and the therapist can talk with the patient through an intercom.

IMRT is a painless, non-invasive therapy, during which patients don't hear, see, or feel the radiation. If the patient becomes uncomfortable during the procedure, the machine can be stopped at any time.

Contact Us

For more information on the IMRT program, contact GW Radiation Oncology:

Main Phone: (202) 715-5097

Fax: (202) 715-5136