Treatment for Brain Cancer

The treatment for brain cancer depends on the type, size and location of the tumor. The following treatment options are available for those with brain cancer:

  • Surgery: Tumors that are smaller and easy to separate from the surrounding tissue can be removed through surgery. In other cases, where the tumor is located in a sensitive area of the brain or is difficult to separate from the brain tissue, surgery may be risky. Extracting even a part of the tumor may help to alleviate the symptoms. There are some risks associated with surgery to remove a brain tumor. These include infection, bleeding and vision loss in cases where the nerves connecting the eyes are affected.
  • Radiation Therapy: In radiation therapy, high energy particles are used to destroy the cancerous cells. The radiation may be external or internal and closer to the area of the tumor. External radiation therapy may be directed at the tumor or the whole brain. The whole brain may be exposed to radiation after surgery in order to kill the cancerous cells that may have remained behind. The side effects of radiation therapy include headache, irritation to the scalp and fatigue.
  • Radiosurgery: This treatment uses multiple beams of high energy particles to destroy the cancerous cells. All the beams meet at the brain tumor and this powerful dose of radiation helps to kill the tumor cells. Radiosurgery is usually done in a single treatment and is used in very small areas. The side effects of radiosurgery include nausea, headache and tiredness.
  • Chemotherapy: In chemotherapy, certain drugs are used to kill the tumor cells. These drugs may be taken orally or intravenously. Chemotherapy may also be done during surgery wherein the surgeon places a disk shaped wafer in the affected area after the brain tumor is removed. The wafer gradually releases a drug which destroys any cancerous cells which may be left behind. The side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, fatigue and hair loss. These side effects depend on the type of chemotherapy treatment and the dosage.
  • Targeted Therapy: This type of treatment uses special drugs to treat particular abnormalities found within the tumor cells. Targeted drug therapy is still a new treatment and research and clinical trials are ongoing. Drug used to treat brain tumors helps to stop the development of new blood vessels and thus restricts the blood supply to the tumor. This causes the tumor cells to die off.

Since a brain tumor can affect other areas of the brain which can disrupt vision, speech and motor skills, rehabilitation may be required after treatment. The following rehabilitative measures may be recommended:

  • Physical therapy helps to strengthen the muscles and also helps you get back your motor skills.
  • Occupational therapy can help you resume your normal daily life.
  • Speech therapy helps to alleviate speech difficulties.
  • Special therapy may be recommended for children of school-age to help them cope with changes in their cognitive skills and memory.