Brain Cancer Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 16 May 2022

Brain Cancer Treatment

A brain tumour's treatment is determined by many factors, including your age, general health, and the size, location, and type of tumour.

Many questions about brain cancer, treatment, side effects, and the long-term outlook will arise for you and your loved ones. This information is best obtained from your healthcare team. And don't be afraid to question.

Brain cancer is notoriously difficult to treat. The majority of treatment plans require the collaboration of many doctors. The following may be on your team:

  • Neurosurgeons – these are surgeons who specialize in the brain and nervous system.
  • Oncologists – these are doctors who specialize in cancer.
  • Radiation oncologists – these are doctors who specialize in radiation therapy.
  • Your primary doctor.

A dietitian, a social worker, a physical therapist, and other specialists might be on the team.

Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are the most popular treatments. In the vast majority of instances, more than one of these is utilised.

The treatment you get will be determined by the following factors:

  • The type of tumour
  • The tumour's size
  • The tumour's location
  • Your overall health
  • Your age
  • The dangers of a specific treatment
  • Your other medical conditions
  • The treatment you prefer

Brain Cancer Surgery

Surgery is performed on a large number of patients who have a brain tumour. During the surgery, the surgeon will confirm the presence of a tumour before attempting to resect it completely. If the surgeon is unable to extract the tumour, a biopsy may be taken to determine its type.

In certain cases, particularly when it comes to benign tumours, extracting the tumour will relieve the symptoms.

Before surgery, you may undergo a number of treatments and procedures. For instance:

  • To reduce swelling, you may take steroid-like dexamethasone (Decadron).
  • To ease or avoid seizures, you might be prescribed an anticonvulsant drug.
  • If cerebrospinal fluid is accumulating inside your brain, your doctor may insert a shunt, which is a small, plastic tube that drains the fluid. The shunt's one end is inserted into the liquid space. The other is threaded to a different part of your body under your skin. The fluid flows from your brain to a place where it can be quickly disposed of.

The following are some of the more common types of surgery:

  • Craniotomy: This is the most common procedure for removing a brain tumour. The surgeon begins by cutting through the scalp. To expose your brain, they'll remove a piece of your skull. The tumour would then be removed in its entirety or as close as possible. The surgeon sews the scalp together after repositioning the piece of the skull.
  • Neuroendoscopy: Depending on the location of the tumour, the surgeon cuts a little opening through the skull or enters by the nose or mouth. The tumour can be removed with small tools. One of these is equipped with a small camera that transmits images to a monitor next to the operation table. These images are used by the surgeon to locate and extract the tumour.

A second surgery may be needed if a new tumour develops.

Radiation Therapy for Brain Cancer

Radiation therapy (also known as radiotherapy) kills tumour cells by bombarding them with high-energy radiation, preventing them from growing and spreading.

  • For those who are unable to undergo surgery, radiation therapy can be used. It's often used after surgery to eliminate any remaining tumour cells.
  • Radiation therapy is a form of local treatment. This ensures it typically doesn't harm cells in other parts of the body, including the brain.

Radiation may be delivered in a variety of ways, including:

  • External radiation involves directing a high-energy beam of radiation at the tumour. To reach the tumour, the beam passes through the skin, the skull, healthy brain tissue, and other tissues. The treatments are usually given over a five-day period. It just takes a few minutes for each treatment.
  • Internal or implant radiation involves inserting a tiny radioactive capsule into the tumour. The tumour is destroyed by the radiation from the capsule. The capsule's radioactivity reduces slightly per day and is carefully calculated to run out after the maximum dosage has been administered. This medication would require you to remain in the hospital for several days.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery destroys a brain tumour without having to open the skull. From various angles, a single massive dose of high-energy radiation beams is trained on the tumour. The tumour is destroyed by radiation. Stereotactic radiosurgery has fewer complications and a faster healing period than traditional surgery.

Radiation has the following side effects:

  • Fatigue
  • Redness of the skin
  • Nausea
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Memory problems

Chemotherapy for Brain Cancer

Chemotherapy is the use of powerful medicines to destroy tumour cells. A single medication or a mixture of medicines may be provided to you. Chemotherapy may be given orally or by an IV. Some medications are administered by a shunt placed in your brain to remove extra fluid.

Chemotherapy is usually administered in cycles. A cycle is defined as a period of intensive treatment followed by rest and recovery. Each cycle takes a few weeks to complete. It's likely that you'll have two or four cycles. After that, you'll take a break from treatment and see if the tumour has reacted to the treatment.

Chemotherapy has the following side effects:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Sores in the mouth.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Hair loss.
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea.
  • Bleeding and bruising
  • Infection risk is increased as a result of a weakened immune system.

Medication can help alleviate or improve any of these side effects.

Brain Cancer Clinical Trials

Clinical studies are used by researchers to assess the effectiveness of new medications on a group of brain cancer volunteers. They adhere to strict guidelines and establish closely regulated conditions in order to determine how effectively the medication affects brain cancer, how healthy it is, and whether or not it has any side effects.

If you participate in a clinical trial, you may receive a new therapy that is more successful or has less side effects than conventional therapies. The downside is that the new therapy has not been proved to succeed and will not be effective in all cases.

Consult the oncologist for additional information on clinical studies.

Brain Cancer Treatment Follow-up Care

Surgical removal of a brain tumour normally requires at least a few days in the hospital for recovery. Depending on the age, overall health, and the type of treatment, it may take longer. Following surgery, you may require chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This can have an impact on the period of time you spent in the hospital.

During your recovery, you could be subjected to non-invasive scans such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Both of these provide doctors with images of the brain to see whether any improvements have developed.

You will need to remain in a recovery facility depending on your condition.

You will be looked for by a team of doctors and nurses. They'll work together to devise a post-surgery treatment and recovery strategy. The following are some of the specialists you may encounter:

  • A neurologist evaluates and treats nervous system conditions.
  • To assist in walking and other large-muscle movements, a physical therapist is needed.
  • An occupational therapist to assist in smaller muscle functions such as eating with utensils, buttoning a shirt, brushing your teeth, among other related tasks.
  • A speech therapist may assist you with improving your speech.
  • An ophthalmologist will examine your vision.
  • Your hearing can be checked by an audiologist.
  • Any improvements in your memory, intellect, or other mental skills should be evaluated by a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Complications

If you have difficulty breathing or have a seizure after you get home, call 999 immediately — especially if it's different from past seizures or if you've never had one before.

Signs and symptoms that should warrant a doctor's visit include:

  • Memory problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Significant mood changes
  • Difficulties in bowel movements and urination
  • Headaches that occur frequently
  • Tingling or weakness in the arms or legs
  • Nausea
  • A fever of more than 37.5 degrees Celsius

If you have any questions about your health during your recovery, call your doctor.

Brain Cancer Survival Rate

Brain cancer survival rates differ a lot. The type of cancer, its origin, whether it originated in your brain or spread there from anywhere else in your body, whether it can be surgically removed or decreased in size, your age, and other medical complications are also important factors in survival.

Support Groups and Counseling

Living with cancer brings with it a whole slew of new challenges for both you and your loved ones. You'll also be worried about how the cancer would impact you and your ability to “live a regular life," such as caring for your family and home, working, and maintaining your friendships and hobbies.

Many cancer patients find that communicating about their feelings and concerns is helpful.

  • Friends and family members can be extremely helpful. They might be afraid to provide help before they see how you're handling things. Don't hesitate for them to say anything. Let them know if you want to discuss your concerns.
  • Some people tend to speak about their concerns with a more neutral professional rather than “burden" their loved ones. If you want to talk about your feelings and concerns about having cancer, a support worker, counsellor, or a member of the clergy might be beneficial. Your oncologist may be willing to provide you with a referral.
  • Many cancer patients find that communicating to other cancer patients is very beneficial. Sharing concerns with those who have been through similar situations may be very comforting. Cancer support groups could be accessible via the care facility where you are undergoing treatment.

Home Care for Brain Cancer

When you have brain cancer, your health care team will talk to you and your family about home care options. This may include the following:

  • Physical therapists: They will assist you if you have difficulty walking or moving.
  • Occupational therapists: Will teach you how to use equipment to assist you with everyday tasks.
  • Speech therapists: Can aid in the treatment of speech and swallowing issues.
  • Home health aides: They've undergone advanced training to assist in personal hygiene activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating.
  • Nurses: Can administer medications, treat wounds, and track the side effects.
  • Home hospice care: Provides pain and symptom relief, as well as emotional and spiritual support for you and your family, in the comfort of your own home rather than in a hospital. A doctor, nurses, pharmacists, aides, a social worker, a spiritual caregiver, and counsellors are also possible representatives.
  • Advance directives: These legal documents allow you to articulate your care preferences and name the individual you choose to make choices for you if you are unable to do so. A living will and a durable power of attorney regarding health care are examples of advance directives. When you stop breathing, for example, you may not like to be placed on a ventilator (breathing machine). As long as you're mentally capable, you have the ability to make certain choices by yourself.

Sources

Referenced on 27.4.2021

  1. EMedicineHealth: “Brain Cancer Treatment.”
  2. John Hopkins Medicine: “Treatment for Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children.”
  3. American Association of Neurological Surgeons: “Spinal Tumors.”
  4. American Cancer Society: “Treating Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children,” “Radiation Therapy for Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children,” “Chemotherapy for Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children.”
  5. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: “What to Expect When Your Child Needs Brain Tumor Surgery.”
  6. National Cancer Institute: “Childhood Brain and Spinal Cord Treatment Overview.”
  7. American Cancer Society: “What Are Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children?” “What are the Risk Factors for Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children?” “Can Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children Be Found Early?”
  8. Seattle Children’s Hospital: “Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors.”
  9. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: “Cell Phone Use and Brain Tumors in Children.”
  10. https://www.webmd.com/cancer/brain-cancer/brain-cancer-treatment

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