Best Treatment Options for Brain Tumor

Treatment options for brain tumors depend on a variety of factors, including the type, size, location, and grade of the tumor, as well as the overall health and age of the patient. The most common treatments for brain tumors include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted drug therapy
  • Tumor treating fields
  • Clinical trials

These are further discussed below.

Surgery: Surgery is the primary treatment for most brain tumors. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible without causing damage to the surrounding healthy brain tissue. The type of surgery performed will depend on the location and size of the tumor. In some cases, a craniotomy, which involves removing a portion of the skull to access the tumor, may be necessary. In other cases, a less invasive procedure called a stereotactic biopsy may be used.

Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to kill cancer cells. It can be used to shrink a tumor before surgery, or as a primary treatment for tumors that cannot be removed surgically. Radiation therapy can also be used as a secondary treatment after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy: External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) which is delivered to the patient externally and Stereotactic Radiosurgery(SRS) which is delivered through a high beam of radiation to a specific point in the brain.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. It can be taken orally or intravenously. The choice of chemotherapy drug and the treatment schedule will depend on the type of brain tumor and the patient’s overall health. Chemotherapy is usually used in addition to surgery or radiation therapy, or for tumors that cannot be treated with surgery or radiation.

Targeted drug therapy: Targeted drug therapies are medications that selectively attack specific cell traits to halt a tumor’s spread. Unlike chemotherapy, targeted therapies spare healthy tissue, so they generally have fewer, milder side effects. These drugs are most often used to treat metastatic brain tumors and are frequently paired with other therapies like surgery or radiation.

Tumor treating fields: Tumor treating fields use painless electrical pulses to interrupt brain tumor cell division. This slows their growth and spread. The device is portable and resembles a swim cap connected to a small backpack. The device can cause local side effects, such as scalp irritation, and requires frequent head shaving.

Clinical trials: Some newly diagnosed brain tumor patients are eligible for a clinical trial. In these trials, patients receive the latest treatments and have the opportunity to contribute to the development of new treatments for brain tumors.

It’s important to note that the treatment plan will be tailored for the individual patient and may include a combination of these treatments or other approaches based on the overall health, type and size of the tumor, or other patient-specific factors.

Follow-up Care

After completion of treatment, your brain tumor care team will help you prepare to leave the hospital, provide follow-up care, and coordinate any necessary rehabilitation services or home care.

Follow-up care after brain tumor treatment may involve seeing a neurosurgeon or neurologist for periodic examinations and brain scans, usually MRIs. The doctor will check for tumor recurrence and possible problems caused by the tumor and/or the treatment, which may include:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of vision
  • Loss of memory
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty doing complex tasks
  • Difficulty making decisions

The brain can sometimes heal itself, but this requires time.

Rehabilitation After Brain Tumor Treatment

To regain some of the affected skills and functions after brain tumor treatment, you may need to stay at a rehabilitation facility, or perform therapy at home or at an outpatient facility. Your doctor will help determine the best type of rehabilitation care.

  • If an inpatient stay is recommended, a social worker will help you find a facility close to home and work with your insurance provider to get you set up.
  • If home therapy is recommended, the team will arrange for home therapists to visit you. They usually come two to three times a week for 30–60 minutes.
  • If outpatient therapy is recommended, you will receive a referral or prescription before leaving the hospital that will detail the type of therapy necessary.

There are different types of rehabilitation specialists who can help you:

  • Physical therapists will assess your ability to walk safely and climb stairs before being released from the hospital. They may also help improve strength and balance.
  • Occupational therapists will assess your ability to perform activities of daily living such as getting dressed, using the bathroom and getting in and out of the shower. Occupational therapists also test vision and thinking skills to determine whether you can return to work, driving or other challenging tasks.
  • Speech-language pathologists evaluate problems with speech, language or thinking. They may also evaluate for swallowing disorders.

Support services, such as counseling, patient education and support groups are available and can typically be accessed through your treatment center even after your treatment has ended.

Remember that the treatment of brain tumors requires a team of specialists, including neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, neurologists, and rehabilitation specialists. They will work together to create a treatment plan that is tailored to the patient’s specific needs.