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Radiation, like chemotherapy, involves risks and uncertainties. A concentrated dose of radiation is directed to a localized, calculated area of the brain in the vicinity of the resection. The radiation "burns off" the area around where the brain tumor was removed, to help prevent any further spread of the tumor. The best result is necrotic tissue (dead tissue), which sometimes can be misinterpreted on an MRI as “hot spots.”

Radiation can cause many different side effects such as nausea, hair loss, weight loss or gain, fatigue or headaches. Since radiation can cause swelling in the brain, the steroid drug dexamethasone is sometimes used to offset the side effects. However, dexamethasone has its own side effects as well. They are weight gain, increase of appetite, and immune system suppression from long term use. Dexamethasone can also give the “moon face” look and can also lead to dependence.

There are various types of radiation such as Stereotactic, Peacock, and Directed Beam. Your doctor will explain each of these treatments and help you decide the best approach. Normally radiation is used after a craniotomy to remove any leftover cells at the tumor site that were not removed during the surgery.

The following links may give you more information.

Brain Tumor Foundation: A good overview and discussion of radiation treatment, including stereotactic irradiation and gamma knife radiosurgery.

Elekta This site from the makers of the Gamma Knife offers an easy to read overview on the radiation treatment process (or Radiotherapy) and an overview of Gamma Knife surgery, which involves a concentrated beam of radiation. At this site, click on the Patient navigation button at the left, then Treatment Process.

NYU School of Medicine - Department of Radiation Oncology - A Preview of Treatment This site gives an overview of the entire process of  treating brain tumor patients with radiation. Mike was treated here.

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Updated: 29 Sep 2006

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