Each year cancer research programs continue to grow: funding increases, new technologies make year-old discoveries obsolete, and more doctors and scientists contribute their ideas and methods to understanding and eradicating cancer. As these strides are made, more treatment options become available and fewer people are forced to endure painful and invasive treatments.
Radiosurgery is a non-invasive, non-surgical treatment of brain cancer that allows doctors to direct beams of radiation to precise locations in order to focus it directly over a brain tumor. This method can help treat and remove intracranial tumors that would otherwise not be accessible for open surgery.
Choosing radiosurgery as an option over more invasive routines is the method of choice for some patients, but is more likely to be a necessity for patients with certain types of tumors that are not easily accessed through open surgery — such as skull base tumors.
Radiosurgery often uses the Leksell Gamma Knife which concentrates gamma radiation to the targeted portion of the patient’s brain. The radiation is so concentrated that, while some residual radiation exists, the vast majority of it is focused onto a much smaller area, thus degenerating the affected area and leaving the rest of the brain unaffected.
The Leksell Gamma Knife form of radiotherapy has been known to work with only one treatment.
What to Expect When Entering Radiation Therapy
Although there are many different types of radiation treatments, radiosurgery focusing specifically on the treatment of head, neck, and brain cancers, the side effects of general radiotherapy and radiosurgery will be very similar.
With radiosurgery, because the radiation is focused around the head and brain area, the patient can often expect to lose hair as a result of the treatment. Other side effects may include a reddening if the skin around the treated area where the radiation beams are passed through, physical fatigue (patients may feel tired more often than normal and sleep longer hours), nausea, and decreased immune response requiring that patients avoid being in public as much as possible to minimize the possibility of catching a virus or other sickness.
When used to treat cancer, radiation therapy is often administered in conjunction with surgery and chemotherapy. In operable cases, surgery may be conducted to remove as much of the cancer as possible, then treatment is followed up by radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. The same is true of treatment in conjunction with chemotherapy.
In some cases, a combination of all three treatments will be used. In cases where the threat is not as immediate, radiation therapy alone may be the only treatment necessary.