Treating brain tumors
The treatments used for brain tumors are surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. A combination of treatments is sometimes used.
Treatment depends on the type, size, position, and grade of the tumor. It also depends on the symptoms that the tumor causes.
- TREATMENT FOR LOW-GRADE OR BENIGN TUMORS
If the tumor isn't causing problems, your doctor may suggest periodic examinations and watchful waiting. This is to monitor for changes or need for treatment.
Surgery may be carried out to remove the tumor, though if this isn't possible or if the tumor can't be eliminated completely, radiotherapy may be administered.
In some cases, doctors may advise additional treatment after surgery to lower the risk of the cancer returning. This is usually recommended for grade-2 tumors with a lower risk of reappearing or in cases where there is a risk of the tumor growing rapidly.
- TREATING HIGH-GRADE TUMORS
High-grade (grade 3 or 4) tumors grow more rapidly, meaning they need immediate treatment. If surgery is possible, the maximum amount of tumor will try to be eliminated. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or both are usually given after surgery.
When surgery isn't possible, the main treatment is usually radiotherapy either combined with chemotherapy or not. Also, chemotherapy can be given alone.
Some uncommon brain tumors such as germinomas or lymphomas are treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy instead of surgery.
- TREATING SYMPTOMS
You may need treatment to control your symptoms. This is called supportive therapy and may include anticonvulsive drugs to prevent seizures and steroids to reduce inflammation in the tumor.
Supportive therapy may be given upon diagnosis and may continue until after your treatment has concluded.
- HOW IS THE TREATMENT PLANNED?
Your treatment will be planned by a group of specialists who will meet to discuss and agree upon the best possible treatment plan for you.
This multidisciplinary team will include:
- A neurosurgeon
- A neurologist
- A medical oncologist
- A radiotherapy oncologist
- Radiologists who help analyze x-rays and scans.
- Pathologists who advise on the type and extent of the cancer.
Other health professionals may be included, such as a palliative care doctor (who is specialized in controlling symptoms), a nutritionist, a physical therapist, and occupational therapists, and a psychologist.
- BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF THE TREATMENT
You may feel afraid of cancer treatment due to the side effects it can have. Although treatments for brain tumors can produce adverse effects, you will be given help to control them.
The treatment can be given for various reasons and the possible benefits vary from person to person and from situation to situation. Your doctor can tell you whether the primary aim of the treatment is to cure the cancer, control it for some time, or reduce the symptoms and improve quality of life. They can also tell you about the possible side effects of the treatment and whether these are temporary or permanent.