Patients whose cancer has spread to the brain can avoid typical hairloss (alopecia) when treated with newer radiation techniques, therebyimproving their quality of life while still controlling their cancer,according to a study presented October 16, 2005, at the AmericanSociety for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 47th Annual Meeting inDenver.
Most brain cancer patients whose cancer has spread to the brainreceive whole brain radiotherapy. This treatment uses two simpleradiation beams on each side of the head to target the cancer. It alsocauses patients to lose the hair on their head. Since hair loss can beupsetting for patients, doctors are experimenting with new types ofradiation therapy to see if they are as effective in treating thecancer while preventing hair loss.
In this study, researchers enrolled 10 patients with stage IV cancerthat had spread to the brain. Doctors were able to improve upon wholebrain radiation therapy by using intensity modulated radiation therapy.This technique, called IMRT, allowed them to further control theintensity of each beam and shape them to better target the cancer whilesparing nearby healthy tissue (including hair follicles), allowingpatients to significantly reduce the amount of hair they lost.
Half of the patients in the study reported only slightlynoticeable hair loss four weeks after treatment ended, and half had nonoticeable hair loss. Patients also didn't experience some of the sideeffects of whole brain radiation, such as a rash on the scalp or behindthe ears. With a short follow-up period, overall survival is 100percent and only one patient has seen their cancer progress.
"This new study will encourage doctors to consider using this newradiation technique to treat cancer that has spread to the brain," saidTodd Scarbrough, M.D., lead author of the study and a radiationoncologist at the MIMA Cancer Center in Melbourne, Florida. "Althoughhair loss may seem trivial, losing one's hair can be difficult for apatient who is already depressed from the diagnosis and the strain ofthe treatments. I'm hopeful this new study will help us improve thequality of life for these patients."
For more information on radiation therapy for brain tumors, visit www.rtanswers.org.
ASTRO is the largestradiation oncology society in the world, with more than 8,000 memberswho specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. As aleading organization in radiation oncology, biology and physics, theSociety is dedicated to the advancement of the practice of radiationoncology by promoting excellence in patient care, providingopportunities for educational and professional development, promotingresearch and disseminating research results and representing radiationoncology in a rapidly evolving socioeconomic healthcare environment.
Materials provided by American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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