by Pollock J

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 therapy, radiation is produced by a machine called a linear accelerator. Short bursts of x-rays are fired from the machine at your cancer. The radiation oncologist designs a plan to shape the radiation beam so that it treats the cancer and as little normal tissue as possible.
Radiation of a Tumor
Diagram of modified radical mastectomy
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Like chemotherapy, the side effects from radiation result from injury to the normal tissues. There are many new ways that the radiation oncologist can customize your treatment to try and destroy cancer, while sparing as much normal tissue as possible. The radiation oncologist will determine how many treatments you will receive. They most often occur once a day, often with no treatments on the weekends. Treatments may go on for a number of consecutive weeks.
Radiation therapy can be given to treat cancer at its initial site or after it has spread. In some cases, once cancer has spread, radiation is no longer a cure. However, the treatments can help resolve problems that the cancer may be causing, including pain and weakness.
Radiation is most often given over a number of sessions. In select scenarios, single doses of focused radiation may be of benefit. Re-irradiation of previously irradiated areas increases the risk of normal brain tissue being destroyed. Your radiation oncologist should carefully consider these risks when discussing treatment options with you.

Brachytherapy

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. By comparison, brachytherapy delivers radiation directly to the cancer using a radioactive implant inside the body.
This treatment has been used with some success in the management of brain tumors. However, the tumor generally needs to be an inch or less in diameter. Ask your radiation oncologist if it is appropriate for you.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Stereotactic radiosurgery involves the delivery of intense, carefully focused radiation to the tumor site. Typically, this procedure takes several hours. It is not available everywhere and is not appropriate for every type of tumor. It is most often appropriate for metastatic brain tumors.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you:
  • Experience any change in mental abilities, coordination, or physical abilities such as vision or alertness
  • Develop any other side effects from the treatment
  • Develop new or unusual symptoms
  • Have red, blistered, or swollen skin

References

Brain/CNS tumors in adults. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/braincnstumorsinadults/index. Accessed June 4, 2013.

Brain tumor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated May 28, 2013. Accessed June 4, 2013.

Brain tumor. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/brain. Accessed June 4, 2013.

Radiation therapy. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/lung-cancer/treating-lung-cancer/how-is-lung-cancer-treated/radiation-therapy.html. Accessed June 4, 2013.

Revision Information

Health Library Search

Only show results from the selected categories.











1 Treatments for Brain Tumors condition indepth
4 Symptoms of Brain Tumors condition indepth
6 Screening for Brain Tumors condition indepth
12 Medicines for Brain Tumors condition indepth
15 Diagnosis of Brain Tumors condition indepth
16 Astrocytoma condition

Astrocytoma is type of cancerous brain tumor. This type of tumor begins from small, star-shaped cells in the brain called astrocytes. Astrocytes are one of several types ...

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common glioma—a type of brain cancer. This cancer starts in the glial cells, which are cells that help nerve cells work. This c...

18 Meningioma condition

The meninges are a protective lining around the brain and spinal cord. A meningioma is a tumor of these linings. Most meningiomas do not cause symptoms. But, if the menin...

A brain tumor is a disease in which cells grow uncontrollably in the brain. Eventually these cells form a mass of tissue called a tumor. If the tumor invades nearby tissu...