Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Consider asking your doctor questions about radiation therapy as a treatment option and which type of radiation therapy and technology are best for your brain tumor.

It is important for you and your support system to understand the wide range of therapies, facilities and technologies available to you when fighting brain cancer. While this can be overwhelming, discussions with your primary care doctor and neurologist can help define the options available in order to make the best, most informed decision for your cancer and your lifestyle.

Consider exploring facilities that are known as neuroscience centers of excellence. These facilities have a lot of experience and utilize a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care. Regular tumor board meetings are conducted and involve the whole continuum of caregivers, including neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, radiation oncologists and physicists. This team typically meets daily or weekly to discuss each case, reviewing patient data collaboratively on a big screen, discussing options, tumor location, risks of treatment types, and treatment planning. At the end of each tumor board meeting, the treatment protocol is decided.

In contrast, you should also be cautious when choosing a center where they only treat brain tumors sporadically and/or in a non-multi-disciplinary way. The cause for concern is that the facility may be employing generalized radiotherapy technology to deliver specialized treatments such as stereotactic radiosurgery. You should search out and get recommendations for facilities that utilize dedicated radiosurgery tools and technologies.

The type of treatment is an important decision to make and more knowledge is better in terms of what is right for your diagnosis and your tumor. Stereotactic radiosurgery is considered standard of care for most small benign and metastatic brain tumors and is the typical treatment for other small brain and spinal cord tumors, blood vessel abnormalities in the brain, defined areas of cancer and neurological movement disorders. See Radiotherapy versus Radiosurgery for a more in-depth discussion of the technologies.

Who is on my radiation therapy team?

What type of radiation is right for my brain tumor?

What does radiation feel like? Does it hurt?

What does radiation do to my brain tumor? To my healthy tissue?

What are the chances that radiation therapy will work on my cancer?

How long will my treatment take? How long does the therapy take to work on my tumor?

Will I need other treatments along with radiation therapy? If so, which ones and what is the order that I will receive these treatments?

Will radiation therapy affect my ability to have children?

What are some support groups for radiation therapy that I could turn to during treatment?

How should I prepare for this financially? Do you take my insurance? How much of the treatment is covered by my insurance?

External beam radiation questions

What are the differences between the external beam radiation systems you use?

Which system and treatment type are the best for my tumor?

Will my treatment be outpatient (do I have to stay overnight)?

Will I have to wear a headframe and what is that process?

Will there be any side effects? Will the side effects go away after I finish treatment?

How do we manage my side effects? Will there be any ‘late’ side effects (over six months later) after my treatment is over?

Stereotactic radiosurgery questions

Is stereotactic radiosurgery an option for my brain cancer treatment?

What are the benefits of stereotactic radiosurgery for my brain tumor?

What are the different SRS technologies and advantages?

Will my side effects be different with SRS ‘beam shaping’?

Do I have to wear a head frame or is it non-invasive, or ‘frameless’?

How do you know or ensure that SRS is accurate?

Download radiation therapy questions to ask PDF »