Brain Cancer Treatment
Radiation Therapy for Brain Cancer
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) is the use of high-energy rays to kills tumor cells, thereby stopping them from growing and multiplying.
- Radiation therapy may be used for people who cannot undergo surgery. In other cases, it is used after surgery to kill any tumor cells that may remain.
- Radiation therapy is a local therapy. This means that it affects only cells in its path. It does not harm cells elsewhere in the body or even elsewhere in the brain.
Radiation can be given in the following ways.
- External radiation uses a high-energy beam of radiation targeted at the tumor. The beam travels through the skin, the skull, healthy brain tissue, and other tissues to get to the tumor. The treatments are usually given five days a week for a certain amount of time. Each treatment takes only a few minutes.
- Internal or implant radiation uses a tiny radioactive capsule that is placed inside the tumor itself. The radiation emitted from the capsule destroys the tumor. The radioactivity of the capsule decreases a little bit each day and is carefully calculated to run out when the optimal dose has been given. You need to stay in the hospital for several days while receiving this treatment.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery is sometimes called a "knifeless" surgical technique, though it does not involve surgery. It destroys a brain tumor without opening the skull. A CT or MRI scan is used to pinpoint the exact location of the tumor in the brain. A single large dose of high-energy radiation beams are trained on the tumor from different angles. The radiation destroys the tumor. Stereotactic radiosurgery has fewer complications than open surgery and a shorter recovery time.
Chemotherapy for Brain Cancer
Chemotherapy is the use of powerful drugs to kill tumor cells.
- A single drug or a combination of drugs may be used.
- The drugs are given by mouth or through an IV line. Some medications are given through the shunt put in place to drain excess fluid from the brain.
- Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles. A cycle consists of a short period of intensive treatment followed by a period of rest and recovery. Each cycle lasts a few weeks.
- Most regimens are designed so that two to four cycles are completed. There is then a break in the treatment to see how your tumor has responded to the therapy.
- The side effects of chemotherapy are well known. They may be very difficult to tolerate for some people. They include nausea and vomiting, mouth sores, loss of appetite, loss of hair, among others. Some of these side effects can be relieved or improved by medication.