External beam radiation therapy
External beam radiation therapy is radiation delivered from outside the body and directed at your cancer site in the brain or spine.
External beam radiation therapy is a very common treatment option, and many people with cancer have it. It’s painless, and you don’t see or feel the actual treatment. In most cases, you’ll be able to continue with your daily routine after each treatment.
How does external beam radiation therapy work?
Depending upon the treatment location, different energies of radiation are used.
- Low-energy radiation doesn’t penetrate deeply into the body, and it’s mainly used to treat surface sites (particularly on or just under the skin)
- High-energy radiation is used to treat deeper cancer sites
Stereotactic radiation therapy
Stereotactic radiation therapy involves focusing radiation beams on a small area, delivering very high doses.
Beams are directed at the cancer site from many different directions. This method delivers the ideal amount of radiation needed to destroy the cancer cells – and, it minimises exposure to the surrounding areas.
Stereotactic radiation therapy is very effective in treating small tumours.
Brachytherapy involves placing radioactive sources in or next to the cancer.
This is usually done at the same time, or after, external beam radiation therapy.
There are two main types of brachytherapy:
- Low-dose-rate brachytherapy – this is delivered over the course of 48 to 72 hours. You’ll be admitted into the hospital to receive this treatment.
- High-dose-rate brachytherapy – this is given over the course of several minutes, but the entire procedure typically takes a few hours. You may be able to go home immediately after this treatment.