Linear Accelerator: A High Energy Device to Kill Cancerous Cells  

A linear accelerator (also called linac or MeV linear accelerator) is a device that uses electricity to form a stream of fast-moving subatomic particles. In the external beam radiation treatments this machine creates high-energy radiation that can be used to treat cancer. It also can be used in stereotactic radiosurgery similar to that gamma knife on targets within the brain. This device treats almost all parts/organs of the body. Physician uses it to deliver a uniform dose of high-energy X-ray to the area of tumor. The infused X-rays have the ability to destroy cancerous cells at the same time they spare the surrounding normal tissues.

The linac is used to treat cancerous cells and can be applied in the external beam therapy. It is being used for Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) and Stereotactic body radio therapy (SBRT). This type of particle accelerator greatly increases the velocity of charged subatomic particles or ions by subjecting the charged particles to a series of oscillating electric potentials along a linear beamline. This therapy has the applications for the medicinal purposes such as by generating X-rays, to being an injector for higher-energy accelerators, to the investigation of the properties of subatomic particles. The design of the linear accelerator depends on the type of particle that is being accelerated like electron, protons or ions. Unlike X-rays and gamma rays, some particle beams can penetrate only a short distance into tissue, so they are used to treat cancers located on the surface or just below the skin.  

This device uses microwave technology to accelerate electrons in a part of the accelerator called as “wave guide”, and then it allows electrons to collide with a heavy metal target. These high energy X-ray will be directed to the patient’s tumor. The treatment couch can be moved in any directions and radiation can be delivered to the tumor from any angle by rotating it. Linear accelerators is capable top provide phenomenal output by producing continuous stream of particles.

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