Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) is a method of radiation therapy that incorporates imaging techniques during each treatment session.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams of radiation to control cancer and noncancerous tumors. By adding detailed images, IGRT ensures the powerful radiation is narrowly focused at the treatment area.

When undergoing IGRT, high-quality images are taken before each radiation therapy treatment session. IGRT may make it possible to use higher doses of radiation, which increases the probability of tumor control and typically results in shorter treatment schedules.

About IGRT

IGRT uses frequent imaging to make sure the radiation is being precisely targeted to the treatment area in order to minimize harm to healthy cells and organs. IGRT uses a variety of 2-D, 3-D and 4-D imaging techniques to position your body and aim the radiation so that your treatment is carefully focused on the tumor.

IGRT is ideal for tumors and cancers located very close to sensitive structures and organs. IGRT is also useful for tumors that are likely to move during treatment or between treatments.

If you undergo IGRT, your radiation therapy team will use imaging tests before, and sometimes during, each treatment session. Your radiation therapy team compares these images to ones taken previously to determine if your tumor has moved and adjust your body and your treatment to target your tumor more precisely.

IGRT is the standard of care for radiation therapy treatment. It's used to treat all types of cancer. Your treatment team may choose one or more imaging types to precisely locate the tumor and sensitive organs.

Advantages of IGRT

IGRT is used as part of radiation treatment plans because it offers:

  • Accurate delivery of radiation
  • Improved definition, localization and monitoring of tumor position, size and shape before and during treatment
  • The possibility of higher, targeted radiation dosage to improve tumor control
  • Decreased radiation exposure to normal tissue surrounding the tumor
  • Collaboration. At Mayo Clinic, radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, oncology nurses, treatment planners (dosimetrists) and medical physicists work as a multidisciplinary team to provide whole-person care for people undergoing IGRT. Other professionals are included as needed.
  • Experience. Mayo Clinic radiation oncologists have extensive experience creating individualized treatment plans that incorporate IGRT. Each year, more than 5,000 people undergo IGRT at Mayo Clinic. Your care team is prepared with the knowledge and resources to provide you with exactly the care you need.
  • Access to the latest. Mayo Clinic doctors have access to advanced IGRT technologies that allow your care team to conduct personalized treatment planning and delivery that provides exactly the care you need.

    IGRT is combined with other advanced radiation therapy techniques such as 3-D conformal radiation and intensity-modulated radiation therapy.

    Mayo Clinic's proton beam therapy facilities are currently under construction.

  • Commitment to quality and safety. Mayo Clinic radiation oncologists partner with a dedicated and experienced physics team to ensure safe delivery of radiation.
  • Comprehensive cancer center. Mayo Clinic Cancer Center meets strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, which recognizes scientific excellence and a multidisciplinary approach to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., are ranked among the Best Hospitals for cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., is ranked high performing for cancer by U.S. News & World Report.

At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical institution that reinvests all earnings into improving medical practice, research and education. We're constantly involved in innovation and medical research, finding solutions to improve your care and quality of life. Your doctor or someone on your medical team is likely involved in research related to your condition.

Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care — and trusted answers — like they've never experienced.

Why Choose Mayo Clinic

What Sets Mayo Clinic Apart

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

At Mayo Clinic, radiation oncologists provide care for people considering IGRT. Other professionals are included as needed.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic, radiation oncologists provide care for people considering IGRT. Other professionals are included as needed.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic, radiation oncologists provide care for people considering IGRT. Other professionals are included as needed.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Doctors and scientists at Mayo Clinic are dedicated to studying novel procedures to determine their potential for treatment of cancers.

Areas of IGRT-related research include:

  • Evaluating new IGRT technologies and procedures such as adaptive radiation therapy and 4-D radiation simulation and treatment
  • Biopsy validation of advanced imaging detection of aggressive disease
  • Improving outcomes by integrating advanced imaging modalities for radiation treatment planning to individualize radiation target volumes and allow higher doses to better defined targets while sparing critical structures and organs
  • Increasing the accuracy of radiotherapy delivery through the use of novel IGRT technologies and techniques for localization and verification of positioning during treatment
  • Development and evaluation of best IGRT practices for proton therapy
  • Utilization of advanced imaging technologies for patient assessment, to evaluate treatment response and guide therapy decisions
  • Imaging drug-induced changes in tumor proliferation as a method for rapidly identifying those patients who are benefiting from a particular novel therapeutic strategy
  • Assessment and development of radiation oncology information systems for efficient, safe and effective utilization and management of IGRT information

Cancer research is conducted in coordination with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center receives funding from the National Cancer Institute and is designated as a comprehensive cancer center — recognition for an institution's scientific excellence and multidisciplinary resources focused on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic authors on IGRT on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Nov. 19, 2014