- Understanding Radiation Therapy: A Guide for Patients and Families
- What is radiation therapy? When is it used?
- How does radiation therapy work?
- Do the benefits outweigh the risks and side effects?
- How much does radiation treatment cost?
- Who gives radiation treatments?
- Informed consent
- How is radiation therapy given?
- External radiation therapy
- Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy)
- Systemic radiation therapy
- Preventing and managing side effects
- Skin problems
- Hair loss
- Blood count changes
- Eating problems
- How will I feel emotionally?
- Will side effects limit my activity?
- Are there long-term side effects I should be concerned about?
- Managing side effects of treatment to certain parts of the body
- Radiation therapy to the head and neck
- Radiation therapy to the brain
- Radiation therapy to the breast and chest
- Radiation therapy to the stomach and abdomen
- Radiation therapy to the pelvis
- Follow-up care
- To learn more
Radiation therapy to the brain
Stereotactic radiosurgery is often used when cancer has only spread to a few sites in the brain. Side effects vary depending on where the radiation is aimed, and usually become most serious 1 to 2 years after treatment. Talk with your radiation oncologist about what to watch for and when to call for help.
Sometimes the whole brain is treated with radiation when cancer has spread into many sites. This may also be done to prevent cancer from spreading to the brain. Whole-brain radiation can cause these side effects:
- Swelling of the brain
- Hair loss
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Hearing loss
- Skin and scalp changes
- Trouble with memory and speech
Medicines are usually given to prevent brain swelling, but it’s important to let your doctor know about headaches and other symptoms. Delayed effects (usually 1 or 2 years later) of whole-brain radiation may be caused by death of brain tissue. These delayed effects can include serious problems such as memory loss, stroke-like symptoms, and poor brain function.
Last Medical Review: 01/24/2013
Last Revised: 01/24/2013