Cobalt-60 is a beta-emitting radioactive isotope of cobalt-59. In cobalt-60 therapy, cobalt-60-generated gamma radiation is used to destroy tumors. Cobalt-60 therapy is also known as Gamma Knife® therapy. Gamma Knife® is a registered trademark of Elekta Instruments, Inc.
Cobalt-60 therapy can be used anywhere on the body. It is particularly useful in brain tumor patients because it is so precise. Because of its effectiveness and simple design, doctors have used cobalt-60 therapy to treat cancer for almost 60 years.
Cobalt-60 therapy allows the doctor to deliver higher doses of radiation to the tumor with limited damage to the surrounding healthy tissue and/or organs. For many cancers, cobalt-60 therapy is one of the most precise and advanced forms of radiation treatment available.
How Cobalt-60 Therapy is Delivered
Under local anesthesia, the patient is positioned on a table with a special rigid frame covering the head. Based on the results of an image study conducted just prior to treatment, the cobalt-60 therapy unit directs approximately 200 beams of gamma radiation at the patient’s tumor. Treatment takes anywhere from several minutes to a few hours to complete. Following treatment, the head frame is removed and the patient may return to normal activity.
Potential Side Effects
Cobalt-60 therapy is painless. Patients who are treated with cobalt-60 therapy have fewer side effects than patients who are treated with conventional radiation therapy. Your treatment team can provide more specific information about side effects and how to manage them.
It is important to note that the information provided here is basic and does not take the place of professional advice. If you have any questions about how brain tumors are treated, please contact your doctor.