Journal of Medical Physics
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REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2008  |  Volume : 33  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 136-140

Tumor delineation: The weakest link in the search for accuracy in radiotherapy


Tyler Cancer Center (US oncology), Radiation Oncology Department, 910 East Houston Street, Tyler, Texas, 75702., USA

Correspondence Address:
C F Njeh
Tyler Cancer Center, Radiation Oncology Dept., 910 East Houston Street, Tyler, Texas, 75702
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0971-6203.44472

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Radiotherapy is one of the most effective modalities for the treatment of cancer. However, there is a high degree of uncertainty associated with the target volume of most cancer sites. The sources of these uncertainties include, but are not limited to, the motion of the target, patient setup errors, patient movements, and the delineation of the target volume. Recently, many imaging techniques have been introduced to track the motion of tumors. The treatment delivery using these techniques is collectively called image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT). Ultimately, IGRT is only as good as the accuracy with which the target is known. There are reports of interobserver variability in tumor delineation across anatomical sites, but the widest ranges of variations have been reported for the delineation of head and neck tumors as well as esophageal and lung carcinomas. Significant interobserver variability in target delineation can be attributed to many factors including the impact of imaging and the influence of the observer (specialty, training, and personal bias). The visibility of the target can be greatly improved with the use of multimodality imaging by co-registration of CT with a second modality such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and/or positron emission tomography. Also, continuous education, training, and cross-collaboration of the radiation oncologist with other specialties can reduce the degree of variability in tumor delineation.


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