Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells while causing the least possible damage to normal cells. Radiotherapy may be used:
- As the main treatment if surgery isn't possible
- After surgery if not all of the tumor has been eliminated
- After surgery to lower the chances of the cancer returning
- Alongside chemotherapy if the patient has a high-grade glioma
- If a low-grade tumor comes back after surgery
In case of a low-grade glioma, radiotherapy treatment can be delayed, monitoring symptoms and performing periodic examinations to see if there are any changes.
- External radiotherapy
The treatment is given in the hospital's radiotherapy department. Each treatment lasts 10-15 minutes and takes place every weekday, with weekends set aside to rest.
Your doctor will discuss your treatment and the possible side effects with you.
- Stereotactic radiotherapy
This type of specialized radiotherapy delivers a higher dose of radiation than external beam radiotherapy. It uses radiotherapy beams delivered from many different angles and which come together at one point on the tumor. A highly precise dose is delivered to the tumor, while the surrounding tissue receives a lower dose, thereby reducing the side effects of the treatment. This procedure is generally used on small tumors that can't be eliminated surgically.
This type of radiotherapy can be given as part of a treatment course or as a one-time treatment; in the latter this is called radiosurgery.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery
This type of radiotherapy is given as a single treatment lasting about 30 minutes. It doesn't involve any surgery.
Several tomographic studies and x-rays are conducted to locate the exact area where the treatment should be delivered.
- Radiotherapy masks
In order to help you stay as still as possible during the radiotherapy treatment, you may have to wear a light mask that covers the face and the front of the head.
The mask is custom designed and adjusted to your face before the treatment is planned. These masks are usually made out of transparent plastic (plexiglass) or with molded plastic mesh to adapt to the contours of your face.
They allow you to see and breathe normally and must only be worn for a few minutes. Most patients adjust well to them; however, if you feel claustrophobia or start to panic, tell the radiologists.
- Radiation Therapy Planning
Radiotherapy must be carefully planned in order to ensure that it is as effective as possible.
On your first visit to the radiotherapy department, you will have a CT scan done or you will lie down below a machine that will take x-rays of the area to be treated.
You may have small marks made on the mask to help the technician find the position more precisely so that the rays can be directed to this area. These marks must remain visible throughout the treatment.
- Treatment sessions
At the beginning of each session, the technician will carefully place you so that you are comfortable, as you must remain still during the treatment. Radiotherapy isn't painful. During the treatment you will stay in the room alone, though you can talk to the technician monitoring you from an adjacent room.
- Side effects
Radiotherapy used to treat brain tumors may cause side effects such as fatigue, headaches, loss of hair, skin irritation, and feeling unwell (nausea).
These side effects depend on the amount of treatment you are having. Your cancer specialist will advise you on how to manage these symptoms.