Radiotherapy to the brain
This page is designed to give you basic information about
radiotherapy treatment to the brain. It describes the planning and treatment
process and explains the common side effects you may experience. You may not
experience any side effects but it is also possible that you may experience a
side effect that is not mentioned here.
Planning your radiotherapy
For some patients the planning process consists of a single visit to make a simple mask and to plan the radiotherapy. The treatment is planned on an X-ray unit called the simulator.
patients require a more complex planning procedure and the pattern of visits is
order for you to be positioned precisely for your treatment a shell or mask will
be made. At this appointment an impression will be taken of your face using
Plaster of Paris bandage in order to manufacture the perspex mask.
this visit you will be given a list of all your treatment appointment dates and
this appointment x-rays are taken of you wearing your mask. This will either
involve a CT scan or a set of x-rays taken in the simulator.
the next visit the doctor will use these x-rays or the scan to plan the area
The purpose of this visit is to check that your treatment plan is correct. This process is called ‘verification’ and is carried out in the simulator, with you lying in the treatment position.
At each treatment appointment the radiographers will help to position you in your mask on the treatment couch. During the treatment the radiographers will leave the room but are watching you closely via a TV monitor. The actual treatment only takes a few minutes, but you are usually in the treatment room for about 10 – 15 minutes.
the first week of treatment more x-ray pictures are taken of you in the
treatment position as additional checks to your treatment plan.
week throughout the course of your treatment you will have an opportunity to see
either the doctor or a specialist radiographer to discuss any problems or
queries that arise.
The radiotherapy will not make you ill and you will be
well enough to travel. You may or may not be allowed to drive yourself. This
should be discussed with you doctor prior to treatment.
If you are currently taking steroids, the dose is often kept at the same level between leaving hospital after your operation and starting radiotherapy. This dose may be adjusted during your radiotherapy following discussion with the doctor.
Any side effects vary from person to person. The type and
site of your tumour may also determine the side effects you experience. The most
common side effects you may experience are listed below:
During radiotherapy you can continue to wash your hair
normally but using a mild baby shampoo. The hair should be gently towel dried
and a hairdryer should not be used.
The skin in the treatment area may gradually redden from the second week of
treatment onwards. It may become dry, itchy and sore especially around the ears
if they are in the treatment area. To minimise dryness and irritation aqueous
lotion may be used in the treatment area. During the summer months the area
should be protected from the sun to prevent sun damage. Any reaction will soon
clear up after treatment has finished.
side effect varies greatly from person to person. Generally it increases
throughout the radiotherapy and may last for a few weeks after completion of
your treatment (see information on coping with fatigue).
What happens after treatment has finished ?
The doctor will arrange to see you in clinic one month after completion of treatment. This will be to check that you are well after your radiotherapy and to assess your steroid doses.
After this visit the doctor will see you every three months for the first year. Visits after this will be at regular, but longer intervals.
Not everyone will need follow-up CT scans, but you may have one organised after three months.
Additional general information The cancerbacup booklet "Understanding radiotherapy" can usually be obtained from the racks around the centre or alternatively by phoning cancerbacup directly on 0800 181199. A copy of the information film Chemotherapy & Radiotherapy can be ordered directly by email only firstname.lastname@example.org
Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. Cancernet.co.uk has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.