Radiation Therapy for Brain Mets

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is a common cancer treatment for brain metastases. Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, to kill tumor cells.If your cancer care team recommends radiation therapy to treat your brain metastases, you will want to explore the different types available and understand the pros and cons of each therapy. For the discussion of brain metastases, we will focus on the types and technologies of radiation therapy that are most commonly prescribed.

  • Whole-brain radiation.Whole-brain radiation applies radiation to the entire brain in order to kill tumor cells. People undergoing whole-brain radiation usually require 10 to 15 treatments over two to three weeks.
    • Side effects may include fatigue, nausea, and hair loss. Long-term, whole-brain radiation is associated with cognitive decline.
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)—Another form of radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is often called ‘knifeless’ surgery due to the ability to precisely target cancer cells while sparing healthy surrounding brain tissue. SRS can be delivered in two ways:
    • Linear Accelerator (LINAC) – uses high energy X-Rays to treat tumors. Microwave technology is used to speed up electrons, which are aimed at a heavy metal target located in the LINAC, creating the high-energy X-Rays.  For many cancers, LINAC therapy is one of the most precise and advanced forms of radiation treatment available.
    • Cobalt-60 Therapy – radiation for this treatment comes from a gamma-emitting radioactive isotope of cobalt which Is used to treat tumors. Unlike LINAC therapy, patients are put under local anesthesia for treatment delivery.
  • Surgically Targeted Radiation Therapy (STaRT)
    • GammaTile® is a Surgically Targeted Radiation Therapy (STaRT) for operable brain tumors that provides immediate radiation treatment after tumor removal. Each GammaTile® has radiation sources embedded in a collagen tile that deliver a precise dose of radiation focused right where it is needed and away from healthy brain tissue.


In recent years, doctors and researchers have made significant advances in their understanding of whole-brain radiation, stereotactic radiosurgery and how these two methods affect people’s survival, cognitive ability and quality of life. In deciding which type of radiation therapy to use, you and your doctor will consider many factors, including what other treatments you’re undergoing and the potential for you to experience cancer recurrences after treatment.