Radiation Therapy for Brain Tumors
There are a several types of radiation therapy that can be used to treat cancer. These include:
External Beam Radiation Therapy
In external beam
Radiation of a Tumor
Radiation therapy can be given to treat cancer at its initial site or once it has spread. In some cases, once cancer has spread, radiation is no longer curative. However, the treatments can help resolve problems that the cancer may be causing, including pain and weakness.
Radiation is most often given in a fractionated (over a number of sessions) manner. However, in select scenarios single doses of focused radiation (stereotactic radiosurgery) may be of benefit. Re-irradiation of previously irradiated areas increases the risk of radiation necrosis (dying off of good brain tissue). Your radiation oncologist should carefully consider these risks when discussing treatment options with you.
“Brachy” means “short,” and brachytherapy uses radiation therapy at very short distances. When you receive external beam radiotherapy, the radiation comes out of a machine located about 40 inches above you. Brachytherapy, on the other hand, delivers radiation directly to the cancer via a radioactive implant from inside the body.
This treatment has been used with some success in the management of brain tumors. However, the tumor generally needs to be very small (an inch or less in diameter). Brachytherapy, though feasible in some circumstances, has never been shown to be superior to external beam radiotherapy in the management of brain tumors. This special type of treatment is used at many centers in the US. It often does not replace the role of fractionated external beam radiation in most brain tumors. Ask your radiation oncologist if it is appropriate for you.
In some research and private treatment centers, stereotactic radiosurgery is available. This type of procedure is performed by various types of equipment, such as
When to Contact Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you:
- Experience any change in mental abilities, coordination, or physical abilities (including vision or alertness)
- Develop any other side effects from the treatment
- Develop new or unusual symptoms
- Your skin is red, blistered, or swollen
American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lungusa.org/site/pp.asp?c=dvLUK9O0E&b=22542.
Brain tumor home page. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/. Accessed April 4, 2009.
Detailed guide: brain/CNS tumors in adults. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/CRI_2_3x.asp?dt=3. Accessed April 4, 2009.
Last reviewed February 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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