Brain Radiation Therapy for Treating Brain Tumors

A brain tumor is characterized by abnormal cells growing in the area of the brain. The spread is dangerous since the tumor cells are capable of destroying the normal brain cells. The tumor starts meddling with the normal functions of the brain parts causing inflammation, pressure imbalance etc.
| Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When the normal behaves abnormal, it is creates a disorder! Yes, we are talking about the cells in our body. Some trigger factor/s makes the cells behave 'funny' and they act as per their wish, grow abnormally and form a tumor. Now if luck showers its blessing, the tumor remains localized (termed as benign tumor) otherwise the cells break off and travel across different parts of the body elevating the complication (termed as malignant tumor).

The brain tumor is classified on the basis of the following main factors which provide a direction to the mode of treatment:

  • Benign or malignant (also called brain cancer). If malignant then the rate of malignancy is determined.
  • The brain tissue that is affected.
  • Location of the tumor in the brain.

Conventional surgical treatments (invasive) are associated with post surgical risks such as infection, hemorrhage, and collateral injury to other normal brain structures. To overcome these problems, minimal invasive and noninvasive surgeries are now popularly used.

Brain Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the answer by modern medical technologies to eradicate brain tumor. We will glance through the terminologies associated with Radiation therapy.

  • It is also commonly known as 'Radiotherapy' and 'Irradiation'.
  • X-rays or Gamma rays are the common sources of radiations used in the therapy. Particle beams that use electrons are popularly used to treat cancer located on the surface or just below the skin layer due to their penetration limitations.
  • The method involves use of high energy waves, directed towards the tumor / cancerous cells, causing their destruction.
  • The technique needs to be highly target specific because in the process some normal cells may also get destroyed.
  • The delivery of radiation depends upon the pre determined dose which is in turn decided upon the size and location of the tumor.
  • The therapy is conducted singly or in combination with Chemotherapy or surgery.
  • In some cases the radiation is targeted over areas which are not suspected to be cancerous. This is to avoid any future development of cancer in those areas.
  • Certain radio sensitizers and anti cancer drugs are used to increase the sensitivity of tumor cells to radiation therapy.

Types of Radiation Treatment

External radiation therapy

Radiation therapy from the machine, outside the body is termed as external. This technique is generally used for relieving pain due to the tumor growth and also in case of malignancy when cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

IORT (Intra Operative Radiation Therapy) is an adjuvant external radiation therapy given during surgery when the tumor cannot be completely eradicated and has chances of spreading locally.

Internal Radiation Therapy

Radiation, when targeted very close to or inside the tumor is termed as internal. The radiation source, placed in an implant (holder) is introduced into the body.  Catheters, plastic tubes or wires may be used as implants.

Systemic radiation therapy

In this therapy a bare radioactive substance is introduced into the body.  The material is ingested by mouth or injected into the body.

Upcoming Noninvasive Surgical Techniques

Stereotactic / stereotaxic radiosurgery (e.g. Gamma knife)

This therapy makes use of high dose of radiations to eradicate the tumor. The patient's head is placed in a head frame and the radiations are accurately targeted over the tumor. The procedure is target specific, not causing damage to surrounding normal cells. The therapy demands only a single session after which the patient can resume to his normal routine.

Robotic surgery (Cyberknife)

This is a noninvasive radiotherapy, providing a pain-free option for tumor patients. The therapy is available with limited centers all over the world because of the cost of treatment which is on the higher side and also it involves multiple sessions. Inspite of its limitations, the therapy is looked forward to and preferred for its high accuracy and negligible side effects.

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