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Survey of the Availability and Use of Advanced Radiotherapy Technology

Survey of the Availability and Use of Advanced Radiotherapy Technology in the UK


W.P.M. Mayles on behalf of the Radiotherapy Development Board


Aims: To determine the availability of intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) treatment in the UK and to assess the magnitude of the shortfall in terms of patient treatments. In addition, the availability of image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT) was also reviewed.

Materials and methods: A survey was carried out between July and September 2008 of the use of advanced technology in radiotherapy.

Results: In total, 50 centres responded out of the 58 National Health Service centres canvassed, representing about 89% of patients treated in the UK. Forty-six centres had at least two machines capable of IMRT and 26 centres had at least one machine capable of IGRT. Thirty-two centres were carrying out forwardplanned IMRT and 18 centres were carrying out the more complex inverse-planned IMRT. In all, 38 centres (76% of respondents) were offering either forward- or inverse-planned IMRT to some of their patients. All the centres with IGRT capability were using IGRT for at least some of their patients. Respondents were asked to list the total number of radical and palliative patients being treated according to the treatment site. Forty-two per cent of respondents took the option to list the total number of radical and palliative patients only. Based on these data, 10.7% of radical patients are currently being given forward-planned IMRT, mainly for breast cancer (18.6% of such patients) and 2.2% of radical patients are being given inverse-planned IMRT, mainly for prostate (7.5% of such patients) and head and neck cancer (6.7% of such patients). Whereas at present only 18 centres are able to treat with inverse-planned IMRT, 45 centres expected to be able to do so by 2010. Respondents were asked to estimate the percentage of patients who should be given IMRT for each site and this was used to estimate the shortfall in IMRT provision.

Conclusions: Based on the consensus of opinion, 32% of radically treated patients should receive inverse-planned IMRT and 22% forward-planned IMRT, making a total of 55%. In fact, 2% receive inverse-planned IMRT and 11% the less complex forward-planned IMRT. Thus, with an estimated 75 948 radical treatments being carried out with megavoltage radiotherapy, the professional opinion is that 41 421 of patients would benefit from treatment with IMRT. In fact, only 9775 were so treated in 2008; a shortfall of 32 497 patients treated instead with conventional radiotherapy.

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