There are various treatment methods for brain tumors. However, out of all, radiation therapy for brain tumors is regarded as the best treatment method. Radiation therapy (RT) ‘s primary goal is to destroy cancer cells in the patient body. And this is further followed by shrinking the tumors in the brain.
This type of treatment is many times used alongside chemotherapy as well as surgery for treating brain tumors.
In this blog, we have taken a deep dive into the topic of radiation therapy for treating brain tumors. Thus, your doubts about brain tumors and RT will be over after reading this.
Understanding RT For Brain Tumors
In such types of treatments, the doctor uses high-energy radiation in order to eliminate cancer cells from your brain. Normally, this treatment is performed using a large-size machine with the beams pointing towards the exact place of the tumor. Such treatment is also known as “External Beam Radiotherapy.”
In some cases, doctors use implant radiation therapy to treat brain tumors. In medical terms, “Seeds” are placed inside the cavities of the brain tumors. This process is done after the treatment for removing the tumor from the brain is over. These “seeds” later produce radiations towards the surrounding tissues for a few weeks.
When Should You Use RT For Brain Tumors?
As we already discussed, RT is one of the best treatments for brain tumors. However, there are some conditions where this treatment is highly preferred.
You should go for RT to treat brain tumors when:
- The initial surgery is over. It is mainly done to kill the remaining tumor cells (often done with chemotherapy).
- As the first treatment when surgery is not an option.
- To relieve the symptoms of brain tumors.
Various Forms Of Radiation Therapy For Brain Tumors
Mainly, there are two types of RT therapy. Depending on the patient’s conditions, both of these can be used to maximize results.
- EBRT (External beam radiation therapy): In this type of treatment, doctors use a machine that produces energy rays directed toward the tumor. Such treatment lasts for a few weeks.
- Brachytherapy (Internal radiation): Experts also call this interstitial therapy. In this therapy, small “seeds” that produce radiation are placed near or inside the tumor. Also, there is no need to remove them after they have finished producing radiations inside your tissues.
You should know that External Beam Radiation Therapy comes in various types. So, what is the purpose of this treatment? It aims to destroy the tumor while limiting the damage to the present healthy brain cells.
In order to limit the damage to these cells, doctors may use various EBRTs like:
The treatment is often referred to as 3-D conformal therapy. In this treatment, doctors use computerized technology for imaging scans in order to match the beams. The process is done in order to shape the tumor from various angles. It may include MRI or CT scans.
There are many similarities between IMRT and 3D-CRT. In this treatment, doctors can control the strength of the beams pointed toward various parts of the tumor.
Conformal proton beam therapy
Such treatment is quite similar to IMRT. However, this treatment doesn’t use X-rays. Instead, it uses proton rays. They are energy rays of charged particles. After destroying the tumor, the proton beams stop way quicker compared to X-rays. Thus, the healthy tissues don’t face much damage.
Doctors use this method to destroy small tumors. You may call it surgery, but this treatment includes nothing like cutting. For this treatment, high-intensity radiation is directed toward tumors from different angles. You may either get a single dose or multiple doses for a few days. Mainly, we have two types of SRS:
Gamma knife radiation
As the name suggests, this treatment uses Gamma rays. These rays are sent using a machine and targeted toward the tumor from different angles simultaneously. You only have to go through 1 session for this treatment.
Linear accelerator based
In this treatment, a machine circulates the patient’s head to send radiation beams toward the tumor from multiple angles. Such treatment is done in one to five sessions.
Before performing any treatment, the health experts will do imaging testing on you. Experts will check if cancer has spread to other brain or spinal cord parts. So, if doctors find that cancer has spread, they may perform radiation therapy on the whole spinal cord and brain.
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Under this type of treatment, doctors put radiation close to the tumor or inside it. Doctors use surgery to do this and, in the end, plant some seeds in the affected area. The “seeds” produce radiations at a very close range for a few weeks. With this method, healthcare professionals try to reduce the effect on healthy tissues.
The Side Effects Of RT For Brain Tumor
The side effects of RT are not the same for everyone. They usually vary based on the place the tumor is.
With RT, you can permanently kill the cancer cells. In the process, healthy cells can suffer damage too. However, they repair themselves with time. The side effects you face from such treatment improve over time. But the time it will take for complete recovery will vary from patient to patient. Let’s look at the common problems patients face after having a successful RT treatment.
Soreness or redness of the skin
The problem of redness or soreness after RT is common among patients. However, University Cancer Centers have treatment departments with specialized nurses who can offer tips on protecting your skin and healing it.
There are high chances of losing hair on the parts where radiotherapy treatment is directed. Our department can advise you how to disguise these patchy hair losses with wigs or headwear.
Sometimes, the radiation beams pass close to the patient’s mouth. In such situations, visiting doctors for regular dental checks is crucial. You need to do that to support your oral health. Few patients can face conditions like oral thrush, and there are medications to treat it.
The problem of nausea is common if the beams pass close to the ears, which causes a sense of imbalance. You can consult our doctors for anti-nausea medication after your treatment.
You may experience dryness and irritation near your ear if the beams pass closely from them. The problem is common and is treated with ear drops.
Don’t take this side effect lightly. If you face any headaches after treatment, report them instantly to the medical team. It happens because RT can cause short-term swelling near the brain. However, doctors prescribe steroids for such conditions.
You may face this side effect with all treatments for brain tumors.
Who Should Avoid Taking RT For Brain Tumors?
According to data, more than half of individuals prefer taking RT for their cancer. However, not everyone is eligible for RT, especially those with certain health considerations.
The considerations usually include:
- Children below the age of 3
- Pregnant women
- People who have connective tissue disorders, like scleroderma or lupus.
- Previous cases of receiving radiation for neck or head
RT damaged the cancer cell’s DNA in order to shrink tumors and slow down their progression. The treatment usually includes two types of treatments: EBRT and Brachytherapy. Both treatments are capable of eliminating cancer cells and sometimes are used together.
The RT process can also harm healthy cells, which can cause certain side effects. These common side effects are fatigue, hair loss, nausea, etc. A few of these side effects may not appear for a long time.
At University Cancer Centers, we provide the best Radiation therapy for brain tumors and other types of cancers. We use cutting-edge technologies to figure out the range of the tumor. And, later on, suggests the most suitable methods to treat the condition. Our professional staff will help you throughout the treatment process and will help you fight those aftereffects as well.
You can always contact our medical staff if you face any problems after the treatment. We will provide you with the best prescriptions to face those issues without suffering.
Contact us at (713)-474-1414 to book an appointment with our healthcare experts.
What Are The Chances Of Success Of Radiation Therapy For Treating Brain Tumors?
The success rate of RT for methylated tumors is around 83% to 69%. However, the success rate is around 56% to 38% if you have unmethylated tumors.
How Long Does Radiation Therapy Last For Brain Tumors?
A treatment session of RT lasts around 15 minutes to two hours. It mainly depends upon the type of RT the doctors use for brain tumors. Normally, you wear a specialized mask during this treatment.
When Can I Start Feeling Better After Brain Radiation?
In most cases, you will face minor side effects such as fatigue after RT. However, such effects don’t last for very long. You may feel better after a few days or in a couple of weeks. Some side effects may last longer.