Volumetric modulated arc therapy

Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) allows more difficult tumours, such as ones wrapped around other important structures, to be targeted precisely.

Volumetric modulated arc therapy [VMAT]: Talk to us about becoming a patient Learn more

What is volumetric modulated arc therapy?

Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) is a novel radiation therapy technique that delivers the radiation dose continuously as the treatment machine rotates. This technique accurately shapes the radiation dose to the tumour while minimising the dose to organs surrounding the tumour.

VMAT involves the use of external radiation therapy beams which are directed in a series of arcs or angles by a rotating machine to allow for greater access to a cancerous tumour. The arc-shaped beams allow more difficult tumours, such as ones wrapped around organs and other important structures, to be targeted more precisely.

VMAT is a type of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) in the way the radiation dose is continuously varied throughout your treatment. It is also known as Rapid Arc.

How does VMAT work?

During treatment with VMAT, you lie down on a radiation therapy bed in the treatment position that has been determined by your radiation therapist during radiation treatment planning. The radiation machine (also known as a linear accelerator) rotates around your body delivering focused beams of radiation to the cancer in uninterrupted arcs.

As the radiation machine rotates around your body, the shape and intensity of the radiation beams continuously change to fit closely to the shape of the cancer that is being treated. This reduces the overall amount of radiation to healthy cells while increasing the amount of radiation delivered to the cancer.

Your treatment team uses 3D imaging technology which helps them to see the cancer during your treatment and deliver the radiation more precisely.

What are the benefits of VMAT?

Radiation therapy using VMAT delivers treatment quickly and with high precision and reduces the overall amount of radiation used to treat the cancer. The rapid speed of delivery of the radiation beams makes the overall treatment time shorter than other standard treatment techniques.  Radiation therapy treatments can be delivered using VMAT in just a few minutes. This can be more convenient and comfortable for patients who may feel discomfort or pain when lying down for long periods.

What types of cancer is VMAT used to treat?

VMAT can be used to treat large areas of the body with uneven boundaries and tumours located close to vital organs without fear of damage to these organs by high doses of radiation.

Many different cancers can be treated using VMAT including skin cancers, head and neck cancers, brain cancers, gastrointestinal cancers, prostate cancers and lung cancers.

VMAT for skin cancer

For more advanced stages of skin cancer, volumetric arc radiation therapy (VMAT) gives doctors unprecedented control over the radiation dose they use, which allows them to better target complex lesions or tumours on the body without damaging the surrounding healthy areas.

Linear accelerators can also be used to treat a range of skin cancers, from early to advanced stages. Radiation treatment for skin cancers also allows patients to continue their medication regimes, particularly for patients on blood thinning medications, such as warfarin.

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