Radiation Therapy for Brain Tumors

Radiation therapy may be used to treat a brain tumor after surgery. Radiation is often used in conjunction with surgery and chemotherapy. If surgery is not an option, radiation may be your primary treatment. The type of radiation your physician recommends depends on the stage, grade, and location of your tumor. Northwestern Medicine specialists are skilled in the latest radiation techniques. This allows them to precisely target your tumor with the required levels of radiation. It also lets them preserve healthy cells and limit your side effects. Your treatment may include:

  • Advanced radiation therapy treatments: These include Gamma Knife® radiosurgery, Tomotherapy®, and RapidArc®.
  • Proton therapy: Proton therapy is a means to target the tumor directly and reduce the risk of damage to nearby healthy tissue. It also may lessen short- and long-term side effects. Proton therapy can be used in certain types of brain cancer. The Northwestern Medicine Proton Center is the first and only proton center in Illinois, and the ninth in the country, to offer proton therapy. We offer it at the Northwestern Medicine Proton Center in Warrenville.
  • External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): EBRT directs high-energy rays of radiation from outside of your body directly at cancer inside your body. It treats large areas of the body, such as your brain. Many people need brachytherapy after EBRT.
  • Brachytherapy: Your physician plants small radioactive seeds at the site of the tumor. You may need a low-dose rate (LDL) or a high-dose rate (HDL) depending on the tumor.
  • 3-D conformal radiation therapy: In this technique, radiation beams are sculpted in the exact shape of the tumor. This better preserves nearby healthy tissue and organs.
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): This is ideal for difficult to reach tumors. IMRT uses advanced software to prepare a precise dose of radiation. It is matched to the tumor's size, shape and location.
  • Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT): When you breathe and move your body, your tumor can also move. IGRT allows specialists to track the tumor’s movement. This allows them to treat it more precisely.
  • TomoTherapy®: This leading-edge technology combines the precision of IMRT with the accuracy of CT scanning. Together, they can tell the shape and position of the tumor before treatment.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery: This treatment involves a single high dose of radiation. In some cases, several high doses are aimed at the tumor from many different directions. Since it is very focused, the normal tissue around the tumor gets little or no radiation. A machine will beam the radiation to the tumor. Some of the most common machines used are Gamma Knife®, CyberKnife® and linear accelerator.