Ten to 30 percent of adults diagnosed with cancer will eventually develop spread of the cancer (metastases) to the brain.
Before the introduction of targeted therapies to treat metastatic tumors in the brain, whole brain radiation (WBR) was the only option for patients with multiple tumors, which often led to side effects including long-term memory issues. Now, patients are able to receive targeted radiation therapy called brain stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). While this procedure used to require a specialized machine, treatments can now be quickly accomplished on a standard radiation machine, a linear accelerator (LINAC).
LINAC-based SRS delivers high-dose radiation to the areas of the brain where cancer is present. This procedure works to achieve cancer control while saving normal brain tissue. It is even possible to treat multiple brain metastases simultaneously.
Although its name would suggest otherwise, LINAC-based SRS does not involve surgery. The goal of the high-dose focal radiation is to target specific areas in the brain and eliminate tumors without brain surgery.
The first step in LINAC-based SRS is evaluation of a computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain by a radiation oncologist to determine the areas that need treatment. After this is complete, a tailored treatment plan is established for the patient. During this planning process, a custom mask is created to fit over the patient’s face. This mask is used only during radiation delivery, to prevent involuntary head movements.
It takes approximately a week to complete design of a tailored treatment plan. The radiation treatment itself is painless and is delivered quickly, with a total time of about 30 minutes. During the treatment, a tumor is targeted with multiple radiation beams, converging from different angles. An entire course of SRS is typically one to five treatment sessions.
Not only is this an easier form of treatment for patients suffering from brain metastases, but LINAC-based SRS is also pain-free and convenient since it is conducted in an office setting instead of a hospital. LINAC-based SRS is a faster and more patient-friendly option compared to other SRS technologies.
CHI Saint Joseph Health provides compassionate care and support to adults with cancer, offering the latest technologies and treatment options, including LINAC-based SRS.
For more information about the CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center, call 859.313.HOPE.
Dr. Matar is with CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center.