Brain and Spine Tumors

Brain and Spine Tumors (Central Nervous System)

Radiation therapy usually is a critical part of treatment for brain and spine tumors. For patients with benign tumors, radiation is an alternative to surgery. Radiation also can be used to treat large areas of the brain in patients with malignant tumors that arise in the brain. Radiation oncologists at Johns Hopkins use their specialized expertise, multidisciplinary treatment planning and research studies to optimize treatment outcomes for patients with these tumors.

Our brain and spine tumor treatments

Radiation oncologists use the following types of radiation therapy to treat brain and spine tumors:

  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) – This radiation technology delivers very high doses of focused radiation to a small area. It is used for brain and spine tumors that are very confined. Patients complete treatment within just one to five days.
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – IMRT delivers targeted radiation doses to the tumor site, patterned to match the shape of the tumor through modulating the intensity of the radiation beams. For benign and malignant tumors that have spread to the normal areas of the brain or spine, IMRT is used to deliver targeted radiation beams in real time. For tumors that started in the brain or spine, IMRT is used to carefully treat the tumor as well as a large portion of the normal brain or spine tissue over a period of about six weeks.
  • Brachytherapy – Radioactive implants are placed as close to the cancer as possible. Since the implant placement is invasive, brachytherapy is rarely used for brain and spine tumors. Brachytherapy may be used when SBRT hasn’t proven successful.
  • Proton Therapy – Proton therapy is a form of targeted radiation treatment that uses energy from positively charged particles called protons. Protons very precisely zero in on tumors, delivering most of their cancer-fighting energy directly to cancer cells while minimizing radiation exposure and damage to neighboring healthy tissue and organs. The therapy reduces the risk of late effects after treatment.