Sunday, March 3, 2024

Brain Cancer Radiation Side Effects

What Kind Of Skin Problems Can Radiation Therapy Cause

Having Radiotherapy for Brain Cancer

The way external radiation therapy affects your skin is similar to what happens when you spend time in the sun. It may look red, sunburned, or tanned. It may also get swollen or blistered. Your skin may also become dry, flaky, or itchy. Or it may start to peel.

Be gentle with your skin:

  • Don’t wear tight clothing over the area that’s being treated.
  • Don’t scrub or rub your skin. To clean it, use a mild soap and let lukewarm water run over it.
  • Avoid putting anything hot or cold on the area unless the doctor tells you to.
  • Ask your doctor before you use any type of ointment, oil, lotion, or powder on your skin.
  • Ask about using corn starch to help relieve itching.
  • Stay out of the sun as much as possible. Cover the area getting radiation with clothing or hats to protect it. Ask the doctor about using sunscreen if you must be outdoors.
  • If youâre having radiation therapy for breast cancer, try not to wear a bra. If that isn’t possible, wear a soft, cotton one without underwire.
  • Don’t use any tape, gauze, or bandages on your skin unless the doctor tells you to.

Your skin should start to feel better a few weeks after therapy ends. But when it heals, it may be a darker color. And youâll still need to protect yourself from the sun even after radiation therapy has ended.

Late Effects Of Brain Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy may cause side effects that develop months or, more often, some years after treatment. These are called late effects. Newer ways of giving radiotherapy are better at protecting healthy brain tissue so late effects are becoming less common.

Your doctor will talk to you about the risk of late effects before your radiotherapy starts. Tell them if you are worried about any side effects. The benefits of having radiotherapy usually far outweigh the risk of late effects.

Possible late effects depend on the area of the brain being treated. They may include the following:

  • Changes to your memory, thinking and reasoning. This is called cognitive impairment.
  • A cataract, if you have radiotherapy close to your eye. The clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy and blurred and you cannot see as well. Cataracts can usually be easily treated with a small operation.
  • Changes in hormone levels if your treatment involves the pituitary gland or part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This can cause different symptoms, including changes to periods , changes to your sex drive or severe tiredness.
  • A second cancer in the treated area years later. This is rare.

After treatment, you will have regular check-ups with your doctor and nurse. Tell them about any side effects so they can help.

Day Of Your Simulation

What to expect

A member of your radiation therapy team will check you in. Youll be asked to state and spell your full name and birth date many times. This is for your safety and part of our standard identification process. Patients with the same or similar names may be having care on the same day as you.

Youll be greeted by your radiation therapist. Theyll take a photograph of your face. This picture will be used to identify you throughout your treatment.

Your therapist will then explain the simulation to you. If you havent already signed a consent form, your radiation oncologist will review everything with you, and ask for your signature.

During your simulation

For your simulation, you may need to get undressed and change into a gown. You should keep your shoes on. If you wear a head covering, such as a wig, turban, or cap, you may have to remove it. Your therapists will help you lie down on a table and make every effort to ensure your comfort and privacy.

Although the table will have a sheet on it, its hard and has no cushion. If you havent taken pain medication and think you may need it, tell your therapists before your simulation begins. Also, the room is usually cool. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, let your therapists know.

To help pass the time, your therapists can play music for you. You may bring a CD of your own from home, if you wish.


Figure 1. Mask for your radiation

Figure 2. Chin strap for your radiation

Skin markings


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Potential Side Effects Of Cyberknife Treatment For Brain Cancer

Treatment with the CyberKnife System is well-tolerated with a low risk of toxicity. Side effects associated with CyberKnife treatment are usually mild and temporary. As with any radiation treatment, side effects can also be severe in some patients and lead to permanent injury or even death. Discuss your specific case with your physician/s to fully understand the potential risks associated with your treatment. Possible side effects could include but not limited to:

  • Increased intracranial pressure expressed by: Nausea

If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Head Or Neck

Side Effects of Common Brain Cancer Chemotherapy Medications

People who get radiation to the head and neck might have side effects such as:

  • Soreness in the mouth or throat

How to care for your mouth during treatment

If you get radiation therapy to the head or neck, you need to take good care of your teeth, gums, mouth, and throat. Here are some tips that may help you manage mouth problems:

  • Avoid spicy and rough foods, such as raw vegetables, dry crackers, and nuts.
  • Dont eat or drink very hot or very cold foods or beverages.
  • Dont smoke, chew tobacco, or drink alcohol these can make mouth sores worse.
  • Stay away from sugary snacks.
  • Ask your cancer care team to recommend a good mouthwash. The alcohol in some mouthwashes can dry and irritate mouth tissues.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt and soda water every 1 to 2 hours as needed.
  • Sip cool drinks often throughout the day.
  • Eat sugar-free candy or chew gum to help keep your mouth moist.
  • Moisten food with gravies and sauces to make it easier to eat.
  • Ask your cancer care team about medicines to help treat mouth sores and control pain while eating.

If these measures are not enough, ask your cancer care team for advice. Mouth dryness may be a problem even after treatment is over. If so, talk to your team about what you can do.

How to care for your teeth during treatment

Radiation treatment to your head and neck can increase your chances of getting cavities. This is especially true if you have dry mouth as a result of treatment.

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Possible Side Effects Of Radiation Treatment For Brain Tumors

Radiation used to destroy cancer cells can also damage normal cells that are in the treatment area or the beam path. Side effects from radiation treatment can vary, depending on the area of the body being treated. Side effects are caused by the cumulative effect of radiation on the cells. This means they develop over time and you may not experience any side effects until a few weeks into treatment. Side effects may be unpleasant, but there are treatments to help you deal with them. Most side effects are temporary, disappearing little by little after therapy is complete.

Most radiation oncologists will see their patients once a week while you are receiving treatment. This visit with the healthcare team is an opportunity for you to ask questions, talk about any side effects, and make a plan to manage your side effects. However, you can report concerning symptoms at any time to your treatment team.

General Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy

Everyone will respond differently to radiation therapy. Side effects will depend on the location of the radiation treatment. Still, some side effects are common, regardless of where you received treatment.

Radiation affects your cells ability to divide. Cells that grow and divide the fastest are the most affected. This includes cancer cells but can also

  • cells in the digestive tract

Here are some of the most common side effects of radiation.

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How Often Will You Have It

How often you have radiation therapy will depend on the size and type of tumour. Usually it is given once a day, from Monday to Friday, for several weeks. During treatment, you will lie on a table under a machine called a linear accelerator . Most machines use imaging scans to check you are in the correct position for treatment. Each daily treatment will last for about 1015 minutes.

Radioprotective Drugs For Reducing Side Effects

Long-Term Side Effects of Brain Tumor Treatment

One way to reduce side effects is by using radioprotective drugs, but these are only used for certain types of radiation given to certain parts of the body. These drugs are given before radiation treatment to protect certain normal tissues in the treatment area. The one most commonly used today is amifostine. This drug may be used in people with head and neck cancer to reduce the mouth problems caused by radiation therapy.

Not all doctors agree on how these drugs should be used in radiation therapy. These drugs have their own side effects, too, so be sure you understand what to look for.

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What Are The Treatments For Brain Metastases

Brain metastases occur when cancer cells from other parts of the body spread to the brain. It is important for doctors to determine where the cancer originated from . Some patients may have a history of cancer but for other patients, doctors need to identify where the cancer has come from using additional blood tests and imaging. Imaging of the brain with a MRI and/or CT will provide information on the number of tumours in the brain and their location within the brain.

Additional imaging of the body may be performed to determine whether the cancer has spread to other organs in the body including the liver, lungs and bones. The treatment of brain metastases will depend on a number of factors. These factors include where the cancer originated from, if other organs outside of the brain are involved, how many brain metastases are in the brain, where the brain metastases are located and their size and the patients overall health.

Localised treatment of brain metastases includes surgery and targeted radiation therapy . Surgery or stereotactic radiosurgery may be recommended if there is a limited number of brain metastases and there is no tumour outside of the brain . Stereotactic radiosurgery is used after brain surgery as well.

Radiotherapy For A Brain Tumour

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Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy tumour cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. Newer ways of giving radiotherapy to the brain are designed to limit the damage to healthy brain tissue.

You may have radiotherapy:

  • after surgery, if a tumour cannot be completely removed
  • after surgery, to reduce the risk of the tumour coming back
  • with chemotherapy, if you have a high-grade glioma
  • if a tumour comes back.

There are different types of radiotherapy. They can be used in different ways to treat a brain tumour. Your treatment is carefully planned by a radiotherapy team. This includes a clinical oncologist and radiographers, who are experts in giving radiotherapy treatment. Your team will explain your treatment plan, the dates and times of your appointments and what to expect.

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How Soon Might I Have Side Effects From Radiation Therapy

There are two kinds of radiation side effects: early and late. Early side effects, such as nausea and fatigue, usually donât last long. They may start during or right after treatment and last for several weeks after it ends, but then they get better. Late side effects, such as lung or heart problems, may take years to show up and are often permanent when they do.

The most common early side effects are fatigue and skin problems. You might get others, such as hair loss and nausea, depending on where you get radiation.

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What Are Other Possible Early Side Effects From Radiation Therapy

" Whole Brain Radiation for Small Metastases Not Helpful"

Other early side effects you might have usually depend on where you get the radiation.

Eating Problems

Radiation therapy to the head, neck, or parts of the digestive system can make you lose your appetite. But it’s important to keep eating a healthy diet while youâre having treatment to keep your body strong.

  • Try eating five or six small meals spread out through the day instead of three large ones.
  • Try new recipes or foods.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand. It will help you eat when you’re hungry rather than waiting for mealtimes and maybe losing your appetite.

Mouth Problems

Before you start radiation to your head or neck, see your dentist for a thorough exam. Radiation can cause problems in your mouth that include:

  • Trouble swallowing

Tell your cancer team about any of these problems so they can help you feel better. To help manage these side effects:

  • Avoid spicy and acidic foods.
  • Don’t smoke, chew tobacco, or drink alcohol.
  • Brush your teeth often with fluoride toothpaste and a soft brush.

Hearing Problems

Radiation therapy to the head can sometimes cause hearing problems. One reason might be that it hardens the wax in your ears. Let your doctor know if you have trouble hearing.


Radiation to the head, neck, and any part of the digestive tract can cause nausea and vomiting. Let your doctor know if that happens. They can give you medicine to control it. Also, you might be able to learn relaxation techniques and biofeedback to help control and reduce feelings of nausea.

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Swelling In Your Brain

Radiation therapy to the brain may cause brain swelling. If you had neurological symptoms before you began radiation therapy, they could return, or you could have new symptoms. These symptoms may include:

  • A worsening of your original symptoms
  • A headache that doesnt go away after taking acetaminophen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in vision, such as double vision
  • Unsteadiness when walking
  • Change in mental status

If you have any new or worsening symptoms, call your doctor or nurse right away. Theyll want to evaluate you. Medication can be prescribed if needed. These may include:

  • Medications to control seizures, such as levetiracetam , phenytoin , carbamazepine , phenobarbital , or valproic acid .
  • If youre taking any of these antiseizure medications, you may need to have blood tests to make sure youre receiving the right dose.
  • Speak with your doctor about whether or not its safe for you to drive while taking these medications.
  • The Day Of Your Procedure

    Again, you will not need to stay in the hospital following Gamma Knife radiosurgery or whole brain radiation for metastatic brain cancer. For either procedure, you should wear comfortable clothes without any jewelry. You will be asked to arrive early to check in, and you will be free to return home within a few hours of completing your procedure.

    Gamma Knife radiosurgery typically takes 15-75 minutes, varying on an individual basis. Patients typically undergo 1 treatment session, but may need 5 treatment sessions overall, which can depend on the number of tumors, their size and location. Whole brain radiation tends to take the same amount of time, but patients will need to undergo 3-5 treatment sessions per week, for at least three weeks.

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    Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy

    Radiation therapy side effects generally occur in the treatment area. They are usually temporary, but some may last for a few months or years, or be permanent. The side effects vary depending on whether the tumour is in the brain or spinal cord. They may include:

    • nausea can occur several hours after treatment
    • headaches can occur during the course of treatment
    • tiredness or fatigue worse at the end of the treatment course can continue to build after treatment, but usually improves over a month or so
    • dry, itchy, red, sore or flaky skin may occur in the treatment area usually happens at the end of the treatment course and lasts 12 weeks before going away
    • hair loss may occur in a patch in the area of the head receiving treatment usually temporary but in some cases permanent if hair grows back, the texture or colour may be different
    • dulled hearing may occur if fluid builds up in the middle ear and may be permanent.

    Radiation therapy side effects specific for spinal cord tumours include swallowing problems if the neck is treated and diarrhoea if the lower spine is treated. Both are temporary.

    If any side effects develop, talk to your radiation oncology team. They can suggest ways to manage them.

    High-dose radiation to the pituitary gland can cause it to produce too little of some hormones. This can affect body temperature, growth, sleep, weight and appetite. The hormone levels in your pituitary gland will be monitored during and after treatment.

    What Are The Late Side Effects From Radiation Therapy

    Vanna Dest Discusses the Side Effects of Brain Radiation

    Late side effects from radiation therapy take months and sometimes years to show up and usually donât go away. But not everyone will have them.

    These problems happen when radiation damages your body. For example, scar tissue can affect the way your lungs or your heart works. Bladder, bowel, fertility, and sexual problems can start after radiation to your belly or pelvis.

    Another possible late effect is a second cancer. Doctors have known for a long time that radiation can cause cancer. And research has shown that radiation treatment for one cancer can raise the risk for developing a different cancer later. Factors that can affect that risk include the amount of radiation used and the area that was treated. Talk with your doctor about the potential risk and how it compares to the benefits youâll get from radiation therapy.

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