Radiation Therapy for Metastatic Brain Tumors

Radiation oncologist Kathryn Beal with a patient.

Radiation oncologist Kathryn Beal performs a neurological exam.

Radiation therapy is an important part of treatment for metastatic brain cancer. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we’re experts at using the most advanced techniques. We can deliver precise doses of radiation directly to brain tumors while minimizing damage to nearby healthy tissues.

Your treatment team will consult MSK specialists to see if radiation therapy belongs in your plan of care.

MSK Precise™

Many people with a small number of brain metastases can benefit from a treatment called MSK PreciseTM. It is also known as stereotactic radiosurgery. MSK Precise uses many types of imaging combined with a sophisticated computer system. It delivers very high doses of radiation to brain metastases. The dose that is given is larger than in standard radiation therapy, but it is given in fewer treatments over a shorter period of time, often just one session. It is accurate within a millimeter.

This approach spares the healthy brain tissue from any significant radiation. It also helps avoid the risk of hemorrhage and infection and the need for anesthesia. MSK Precise is recommended for people who have brain tumors that can’t be reached through surgery or for people with cancer that is too advanced for surgery. It is also an option for those who cannot tolerate anesthesia as well.

Standard radiation therapy is delivered every day in lower daily doses, usually over the course of several weeks. Some MSK Precise treatments can be given in a single day. It can be done on an outpatient basis. There is minimal, or no, disruption of other treatments, such as chemotherapy. Some people can resume their normal activities the day after treatment.

Other Radiation Therapy Approaches

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy

This technique (IMRT) delivers high doses of radiation to the brain tumor while protecting your healthy brain tissue. It uses advanced software and 3-D CT scans to mold radiation doses to the shape of the tumor.

Image-Guided Radiation Therapy

Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) combines advanced imaging with IMRT. Our specialists incorporate the imaging in each IGRT session to ensure the precise delivery of each radiation dose.

Whole-Brain Radiation Therapy

Whole-brain radiation therapy is usually the most effective treatment approach if you have large tumors deep in the brain or many tumors throughout your brain. This radiation therapy is given over a course of weeks to minimize side effects.