Radiotherapy for brain tumours

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Radiotherapy is when high-energy X-rays are aimed at tumour cells to kill them. Radiotherapy can be used after surgery to kill any tumour cells left behind. The dosage and length of treatment can vary between patients, even between those with the same type of tumour. The course can be several treatments over a number of days or weeks (up to 6 weeks).

Radiotherapy can also be used to control and relieve symptoms. This is called palliative radiotherapy for brain tumours. You will need between 1 and 15 doses of radiotherapy for palliative treatment.

Brain tumours can be treated with very precise types of radiotherapy like three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) and intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). The radiotherapy is aimed precisely at the tumour, while doing the least damage to nearby normal cells. 

Planning radiotherapy

You will need to go to hospital before you have radiotherapy to plan your treatment. This will involve simulation and having a mask made. It may take more than one trip to hospital before everything is ready.

Simulation

Simulation means working out exactly where the radiotherapy beams will be aimed. A CT scanner will be used to plan the places the radiotherapy needs to target. 

Making your mask

You will wear a mask during treatment to keep your head still, so that the radiotherapy targets the right area. The mask is moulded from plastic to the shape of your face. Marks are put on the mask to show where treatment will be given. Read more about masks for radiotherapy.

Short-term possible side-effects:

  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Headaches
  • Hair loss
  • Skin changes in the treatment area
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea or feeling sick

Usually side-effect clear up in the weeks and months after treatment, but occasionally they can be long term. 

Read more about radiotherapy and its side-effects. 

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