For brain tumors such as glioblastoma, radiation therapy is the most commonly prescribed treatment. It can be used as a primary treatment if a surgeon believes that removing a tumor would be too risky, or after an operation to destroy any remaining cancerous cells that were not visible to or accessible by the surgeon.
What is radiation therapy?
During radiation therapy for glioblastoma, X-rays, gamma rays or photons are aimed at a tumor to destroy the cancerous cells. As cancerous cells are destroyed and eliminated by the body’s immune system, the tumor shrinks; this helps alleviate pressure on the brain.
When radiation therapy is directed at a tumor, the powerful beams can potentially damage some surrounding healthy cells. This can cause side effects that last until the healthy cells repair themselves. Patients may experience fatigue, radiation dermatitis (red, irritated, swollen or blistered skin), hair loss and low blood counts. Specifically for patients going through radiation therapy for glioblastoma, they may experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, hearing loss, seizures and trouble with memory or speech. Some of these side effects may appear during the treatment while others don’t show up until a year or two afterward. Although healthy cells cannot be completely shielded from radiation exposure, precise delivery techniques can help to limit it and lessen the impact of side effects.
Radiation therapy at Moffitt Cancer Center
At Moffitt Cancer Center, a multispecialty team reviews each patient’s diagnosis to determine the best options for delivering radiation therapy to a tumor. Delivery methods often used for glioblastoma radiation treatment include:
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – IMRT uses computer-controlled linear accelerators to precisely deliver radiation therapy to a tumor. The intensity of each beam can be precisely tailored to reduce radiation exposure to nearby healthy tissues.
- Tomotherapy – Tomotherapy is an advanced form of IMRT in which computed tomography (CT) imaging scans are taken each day to guide the placement of the radiation beams.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery – Despite what the name suggests, stereotactic radiosurgery is not a type of operation. This precise treatment positions a radioactive source closer to the tumor than would be possible with conventional radiation therapy. While traditional glioblastoma radiation therapy involves numerous sessions scheduled over the course of several months, stereotactic radiosurgery is delivered in fewer sessions.
Moffitt Cancer Center not only offers some of the most advanced radiation therapy options for glioblastoma, but we also have some of the most experienced radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists and physicists in the field. While our technologies set us apart, our skilled experts truly make the difference, continually determining more effective ways to use these technologies to each patient’s advantage.