Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy may be used to treat a brain tumor after surgery, or as your primary treatment when surgery isn’t an option. The type of radiation treatment recommended depends upon the stage and location of your tumor. Northwestern Medicine specialists are skilled in the very latest radiation therapy techniques, which allow them to precisely target your tumor with high levels of radiation, while striving to preserve healthy cells and limit your side effects. Your radiation treatment may include:

  • Advanced radiation therapy treatments: These include Gamma Knife® radiosurgery, Tomotherapy®, and RapidArc®, advanced radiotherapy technologies that improve dose conformity and may shorten treatment times
  • Proton therapy: Proton therapy is one of the most precise forms of radiation therapy, proton treatment can be controlled so most of the radiation ends up directly in the tumor, reducing the risk of damage to surrounding healthy tissues, and causing fewer short- and long-term side effects. Proton therapy has been effective in treating certain types of brain cancer. Northwestern Medicine is the first and only health system in Illinois, and the ninth in the country, to offer proton therapy at the Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center* in Warrenville
  • External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): EBRT directs high-energy rays of radiation from outside of your body directly at cancerous tissues inside. It effectively treats large areas of the body, such as your brain. Often, EBRT is followed by brachytherapy
  • Brachytherapy: In this therapy, small radioactive seeds are implanted at the site of the tumor. Depending on the cancer, your physicians may recommend a low-dose rate (LDL) or a high-dose rate (HDL)
  • 3-D conformal radiation therapy: In this technique, radiation beams are sculpted in the exact shape of the tumor, to better preserve nearby healthy tissue and organs
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): Ideal for difficult to reach tumors, IMRT uses advanced software to prepare a precise dose of radiation, matched to the tumor's size, shape and location
  • Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT): Due to breathing and other body movements, the tumor can also move. IGRT allows our specialists to track the tumor’s movement for the most precise treatment possible
  • TomoTherapy®: This leading-edge technology combines the advanced sculpting precision of IMRT with the accuracy of CT scanning technology to confirm the shape and position of the tumor prior to treatment
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery: This treatment involves a single high dose of radiation. Sometimes it may be several high doses aimed right 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 the Gamma Knife®, the CyberKnife® and the linear accelerator