Radiation Therapy for Brain Tumors

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Radiation oncologist Kathryn Beal

Radiation oncologist Kathryn Beal’s sole focus is on caring for and developing better treatment options for people with brain tumors.

Radiation therapy works by shrinking or killing the cancerous cells that make up a brain tumor. Your treatment team may recommend radiation therapy as a primary treatment for your tumor, or suggest it be combined with surgery, chemotherapy, or both. Radiation is also used for tumors that come back after initial treatment.

State-of-the-art technology — linear accelerators, advanced imaging techniques, high-speed computer systems — is helping us care for our brain tumor patients with more powerful and precise doses of radiation than ever before. 

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Types of Radiation Therapy

The type of radiation we recommend for you depends on several factors, including the tumor’s type, size, and location. Our radiation experts use three types of external radiation therapy for primary brain tumors.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy, or IMRT, uses sophisticated software and 3-D images from CT scans to focus high doses of radiation directly on your tumor. These pencil-thin beams vary in intensity and conform to the specific shape and size of the tumor, reducing exposure to healthy tissue in your brain and also lessening your chance for side effects.

Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)

With image-guided radiation therapy, or IGRT, we use real-time imaging with a CT scan or x-rays during radiation therapy to help ensure an ideal setup and that you don’t move at all during treatment. Our goal is to deliver radiation with utmost accuracy.

MSK Precise™

Many people with smaller brain tumors can benefit from a treatment called MSK PreciseTM. It is also known as stereotactic radiosurgery or stereotactic radiation therapy. MSK Precise uses innovative methods that keep people completely motionless during the treatment, multiple types of imaging, and a sophisticated computer system. This makes it possible to deliver very high doses of radiation to brain tumors while sparing the healthy tissue around the tumor. The dose that is given is larger than in standard radiation therapy, but it is given in fewer treatments over a shorter period of time, sometimes in just one dose. It is accurate to within less than a millimeter.

MSK Precise helps avoid the risk of hemorrhage and infection and the need for anesthesia. It is recommended for people who have brain tumors that can’t be reached through surgery or for people with cancer that is too advanced for surgery. It is also an option for those who cannot tolerate anesthesia as well.

Standard radiation therapy is delivered every day in lower doses, usually over the course of several weeks. Some MSK Precise treatments can be given in a single day. It can be done on an outpatient basis. There is minimal, or no, disruption to other treatments, such as chemotherapy