Radiation therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy, is the careful use of radiation to safely and effectively treat many different kinds of tumors.
- Doctors called radiation oncologists use radiation therapy to try to kill tumors, to control tumor growth or to relieve symptoms.
- Radiation therapy works within tumor cells by damaging their ability to multiply. When these cells die, the body naturally eliminates them.
- Healthy cells near the tumor may be affected by radiation, but they are able to repair themselves in a way tumor cells cannot.
Along with brain radiation comes the potential for side effects and complications. Side effects to the brain may not occur until a couple weeks after the start of radiation therapy. The most common side effects include hair loss, skin irritation, fatigue and edema (swelling of the brain). Other possible side effects include hearing problems, nausea/vomiting, loss of appetite, memory or speech problems and headaches.
A severe complication is radiation necrosis. This is death of healthy brain tissue. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish from recurrent tumor growth. The dead cells can be irritating to the brain and cause inflammation and swelling. This can cause symptoms of headaches, seizures and in a small number of cases, even death. Medications are usually prescribed to control the swelling. Although radiation technology has improved in the recent years, necrosis is a prevalent side effect in children receiving brain tumor radiation. Other complications include central nervous system damage and return of tumor growth.
Please refer to the following links for more information about brain tumors and radiation, including side effects and complications.
http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=thera-brain&bhcp=1 (Radiology Info)
http://www.brainradionecrosis.org/Patients/PatientsCauses.htm (Brain Radionecrosis Center)
http://www.rtanswers.com/ (RT Answers)
The gamma knife and its associated computerized treatment planning software enable physicians to locate and irradiate relatively small targets in the head (mostly inside the brain) with extremely high precision. Intense doses of radiation can be given to the targeted area(s) while largely sparing the surrounding tissues. The gamma knife works by a process called stereotactic radiosurgery, which uses multiple beams of radiation converging in three dimensions to focus precisely on a small volume, such as a tumor, permitting intense doses of radiation to be delivered to that volume safely.
Please refer to http://www.radiologyinfo.org/ for more information.
Visit Accuray’s website to learn about their Cyberknife Robotic Radiosurgery System, a new generation in radiosurgery designed to treat tumors anywhere in the body with sub-millimeter accuracy. The company’s Cyberknife System is the first and only commercially available system to use intelligent robotics to continuously track, detect and correct for tumor and patient movement throughout the treatment. The Cyberknife System provides an additional option to many patients diagnosed with previously inoperable or surgically complex tumors.
Treatment of disease by means of chemical substances or drugs; usually used in reference to neoplastic (cancer) disease.The use of these drugs or chemicals to slow down or kill rapidly dividing cells can be used before, during, or after surgery to help destroy tumor cells and to prevent them from returning. Chemotherapy drugs may be taken by pill or by injection and are often used in combination. Drugs called radiosensitizers, which are believed to make radiation therapy more effective, may also be prescribed.