Brain Tumors Treatments

Patients with brain tumors have a variety of treatment options. The particular treatment that each patient receives depends on several characteristics of the tumor, including:

  • Location: Which part of the brain is affected?
  • Size: How large is the tumor?
  • Stage: How aggressive is the tumor and how far has it progressed?
  • Type: Is it a primary or secondary (metastasized) tumor?

The treatment may also depend on the age and wishes of the patient; some patients choose to be more involved in the treatment decisions. A patient also usually has the option to get a second opinion from another doctor if he is uncertain about the treatment plan his primary physician or surgeon suggests. Each type of treatment has risks, and survival rates depend of a variety of factors.

Brain Tumor Treatments

Brain tumor treatments may involve the use of one or more of the following techniques:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Craniotomy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Radiosurgery
  • Surgery
  • Targeted drug therapy.

Brain Tumor Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill tumor cells. However, as a treatment for a brain tumor, chemotherapy is not one of the primary choices. It works by stopping cell reproduction, but brain cells divide very slowly, so brain tumor chemotherapy is often not as useful as other treatments.

Brain Tumor Surgery

If the tumor is in a favorable location and the patient is in good health, brain tumor surgery is often the primary treatment of choice for brain tumor treatment. A craniotomy involves temporarily removing a portion of the skull to gain access to brain tissue for tumor removal. This type of invasive surgery is necessary for some larger types of tumors, and may be able to remove all infected cells in the brain.

Radiation Treatment

Radiation therapy, or “radiotherapy,” is a treatment that uses high-energy particles—such as x-rays, gamma rays or protons—to kill tumor cells directly. This type of therapy is often used in conjunction with surgery to kill hidden cells left behind after removal of the primary tumor. During radiosurgery, several external beams of radiation are directed at the tumor from different angles for a very intense and localized radiation treatment.

Targeted Drug Therapy

Many of the targeted drug therapies available to treat brain tumors are still in the clinical trial stage. Most of these drugs kill cancer cells by taking advantage of their abnormalities or weaknesses. Still other drugs work to cut off the blood supply to the tumor, killing cancerous cells.

Very new treatments are available to a small percentage of patients who are not responding to other methods. These clinical trials are experimental treatments to determine if a certain new drug is effective. For treatment of a brain tumor, alternative medicine is not widely considered as an effective option, other than to help patients cope with side effects and recovery.

Resources

HealthCommunities.com Staff. (2010). Brain cancer. Retrieved April 9, 2010, from the HealthCommunities.com website: http://www.oncologychannel.com/braincancer/treatment.shtml.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Brain tumor. Retrieved April 9, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/brain-tumor/DS00281/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs.

MedicineNet Staff. (n.d.). Brain tumor. Retrieved April 9, 2010, from the MedicineNet.com website: http://www.medicinenet.com/brain_tumor/page6.htm.