Radiation therapy for brain tumors

Brain tumors are given radiation therapy if necessary after a surgery or a biopsy.

Located inside the skull, a brain tumor may originate in either the brain tissue or the meninges. Magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography is used to find the tumor. These examinations will show the size and location of the tumor.

Non-malignant brain tumors may pose a serious risk and require treatment as well if they are located so that they may press against the critical structures of the brain.

Determining the quality of the tumor always demands a tissue sample taken from the tumor. It is taken either in conjunction with surgery or by taking a biopsy, which will then be examined by a pathologist. Further treatments are determined based on the tumor’s typing, malignancy, location, and its speed and way of growth.

Often mere removal surgery is sufficient treatment for a brain tumor and sometimes even just monitoring will suffice. Radiation therapy is given if necessary. For some of the most malignant brain tumors, the combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy has been found to improve the treatment outcome when compared with the outcome of mere radiation therapy.

Radiation Therapy Planning

Magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography are used to plan radiation therapy and define the target area. The radiation therapy will target the surgical cavity or tumor tissue shown thereby, but often also the surrounding area, which may contain sporadic cancer cells.

Radiation Therapy Benefits and Drawbacks

The most common adverse effects of radiation therapy on the brain area include fatigue, headache, nausea, irritation of the skin and loss of hair in the treated area, and an increased risk of epileptic seizures. The adverse effects may continue even after the end of the treatment, but some of these effects, such as nausea or headache, can be prevented or treated by medications.

Duration of Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is given over a period of several weeks, targeting the desired area as precisely as possible.