Radiation is not often used to treat melanoma–but it is “very effective” in treating stage four metastatic patients who develop tiny tumors in the brain, says Dr. Anna Pavlick, medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Radiation therapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. Depending on the size and location of the cancer, your doctor may suggest radiation therapy as part of your treatment plan. It may be given before, during, or after surgery to remove the cancer.Read More
Stereotactic Radiation (SRS)
Also known as stereotactic radiosurgery, it delivers a high dose of radiation to a tumor with great accuracy. Using advanced imaging technology, your doctor creates a 3D map of the tumor in your brain. This map helps your doctor target the radiation therapy so that it hits the tumor and not healthy brain tissue.
Gamma Knife Radiation
This type of radiation therapy uses a machine called a Gamma Knife to deliver multiple beams of radiation to the tumor. Your doctor will use a special stereotactic frame to keep your head still during treatment. This ensures that the beams hit the tumor accurately and that the healthy tissue around it isn’t damaged.
Radiation Side Effects
Both types of radiation therapy can cause side effects, such as fatigue and nausea. Because the radiation targets a specific area of the body, these side effects are usually localized to that area. You may also experience hair loss in the treated area.
Because radiation is used for advanced melanoma that has spread to the brain, those who undergo the therapy may experience cognitive dysfunction, such as memory loss and difficulty with problem-solving skills. Headaches are also common.
Managing Radiation Side Effects
If radiation is an option for your melanoma, you’ll meet with a radiation oncologist trained in its use. There, you’ll be able to discuss any concerns you may have. This includes potential side effects and how to manage them.
Let your medical team know if side effects arise after treatment. They can help you find relief from any discomfort you’re experiencing. It’s important to remember that they’re there to support you throughout this process.