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Whole Brain Radiotherapy

17th April 2022 by Claire O'Donnell Education

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Whole Brain Radiotherapy [WBRT] is given when cancer cells from another part of the body have spread to and developed in the brain. The aim of the WBRT is to help relieve any symptoms or prevent symptoms from developing and to slow down the growth of the cancer. 

Radiotherapy is usually given in 5 or10 treatment sessions over a 1-2 week period.


The first appointment will be a pre-treatment one where a device called a ‘cast’ or ‘mould’ is made. A CT scan is then carried out where the cast is marked with reference marks in preparation for treatment. Planning usually takes about 20-30 minuts. 

Each cast is individually made to ensure it fits well and is comfortable.  Its purpose is to help you to stay still and to place the treatment marks onto it, rather than your skin. The cast made at planning is used again for each treatment. 

How is the cast made:

The cast starts as a flat sheet of plastic attached to a frame. It is first placed in a warm water bath where the plastic sheet becomes soft and flexible. Then it is placed over and onto your face and head; it feels like a warm, wet flannel. Using our fingers and gentle pressure, we mould the plastic sheet to your shape, which can feel a little strange, but is painless. The plastic cools and sets in approximately 5 minutes and is ready to use straight away. Usually, the planning procedure follows immediately after the making of the cast.



Once the pre-treatment appointment is over, a date will be given for your treatment radiotherapy to start. 

The treatment procedure is similar to planning and takes about 10 minutes with treatment delivery taking only a few minutes. It is painless and you should breathe normally throughout. 


Side effects:

The usual pattern for the development of the temporary (acute) side effects is to gradually start 5-10 days after the first treatment. They usually persist and worsen, the effects being most troublesome about 10 days after the last radiotherapy treatment. After this, the healing process begins. The side effects usually settle over the following 2-3 weeks. You will be reviewed during treatment and given medicines and advice to help you cope. 

Possible side effects:

  • Tiredness
  • Sickness and headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Skin Reaction
  • Hair loss
  • Memory loss


Important note for drivers:

Once you have developed brain symptoms you will be asked to stopped driving and inform the DVLA of your diagnosis


Follow up:

Most people will be seen in the Oncology clinic a few weeks after finishing their radiotherapy.