Patients whose cancer has spread to the brain can avoid typical hair loss (alopecia) when treated with newer radiation techniques, thereby improving their quality of life while still controlling their cancer, according to a study presented October 16, 2005, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncologys 47th Annual Meeting in Denver.
Most brain cancer patients whose cancer has spread to the brain receive whole brain radiotherapy. This treatment uses two simple radiation beams on each side of the head to target the cancer. It also causes patients to lose the hair on their head. Since hair loss can be upsetting for patients, doctors are experimenting with new types of radiation therapy to see if they are as effective in treating the cancer while preventing hair loss.
In this study, researchers enrolled 10 patients with stage IV cancer that had spread to the brain. Doctors were able to improve upon whole brain radiation therapy by using intensity modulated radiation therapy. This technique, called IMRT, allowed them to further control the intensity of each beam and shape them to better target the cancer while sparing nearby healthy tissue (including hair follicles), allowing patients to significantly reduce the amount of hair they lost.
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