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18+: How To Treat Brain Cancer (Tumor)

Brain Tumor Alliance provides patients with information on the latest, most advanced treatment options available for the treatment of brain tumors. Please use this information to help you and your doctor determine which treatment options may work best for your tumor type and location.

Please discuss any information with your doctor and/or physician prior to proceeding with any medical treatment.

Technology continues to evolve which can lead to better treatment options.  We suggest that if you are having surgery to remove your brain tumor, that you consider banking your brain tumor tissue (see below).  This process is similar to cord blood banking and may be used in the future, depending on a person’s particular condition and the state of developing science, to create personalized vaccine therapies, conduct chemotherapy sensitivity testing, or conduct genetic testing.

All brain tumor treatments fall into one of three categories.  There are conventional treatments, less invasive treatments, and clinical trials.  The treatment protocol that your doctor recommends may involve a combination of these treatment types based on your medical condition, the tumor size, type and location.

If you are diagnosed with a brain tumor, we strongly urge you to visit a brain tumor center for treatment.  These facilities are generally more experienced to deal with brain tumors, and have access to the latest treatments and technology.

Conventional brain tumor treatments include:

Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Each of these options has its own set of benefits and risks.

Surgery is the usual treatment for most brain tumors. Surgery to open the skull is called a craniotomy. It is performed under general anesthesia. Before surgery begins, the scalp is shaved. The surgeon then makes an incision in the scalp and uses a special type of saw to remove a piece of bone from the skull. After removing part or all of the tumor, the surgeon covers the opening in the skull with that piece of bone or with a piece of metal or fabric. The surgeon then closes the incision in the scalp.

Many new cutting edge treatments are currently being studied, including vaccines to prevent the reoccurrence of brain tumors, and other personalized therapies.  Many of these experimental treatments and technologies are ONLY available if you save your tumor tissue.

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These are some questions a person may want to ask the doctor before having surgery:

*How will I feel after the operation?
*What will you do for me if I have pain?
*How long will I be in the hospital?
*Will I have any long-term effects?
*Will my hair grow back?
*Are there any side effects from using metal or fabric to replace the bone in the skull?
When can I get back to my normal activities?
*What is my chance of a full recovery?

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells and is sometimes used to treat brain tumors. The drugs may be given by mouth or by injection. Either way, the drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. The drugs are usually given in cycles so that a recovery period follows each treatment period.

Chemotherapy may be given in an outpatient part of the hospital, at the doctor’s office, or at home. Rarely, the patient may need to stay in the hospital.

Children are more likely than adults to have chemotherapy. However, adults may have chemotherapy after surgery and radiation therapy.

For some patients with recurrent cancer of the brain, the surgeon removes the tumor and implants several wafers that contain chemotherapy. Each wafer is about the size of a dime. Over several weeks, the wafers dissolve, releasing the drug into the brain. The drug kills cancer cells.

Patients may want to ask these questions about chemotherapy:

*Why do I need this treatment?
*What will it do?
*Will I have side effects? What can I do about them?
*When will treatment start? When will it end?
*How often will I need checkups?

Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy rays to kill tumor cells.

The radiation may come from x-rays, gamma rays, or protons. A large machine aims radiation at the tumor and the tissue close to it. Sometimes the radiation may be directed to the entire brain or to the spinal cord. Radiation therapy usually follows surgery.

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The radiation kills tumor cells that may remain in the area. Sometimes, patients who cannot have surgery have radiation therapy instead. The patient goes to a hospital or clinic for radiation therapy. The treatment schedule depends on the type and size of the tumor and the age of the patient. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes.

Doctors take steps to protect the healthy tissue around the brain tumor:

Fractionation – Radiation therapy usually is given five days a week for several weeks. Giving the total dose of radiation over an extended period helps to protect healthy tissue in the area of the tumor.

Hyperfractionation – The patient gets smaller doses of radiation two or three times a day instead of a larger amount once a day.

Stereotactic radiation therapy – Narrow beams of radiation are directed at the tumor from different angles. For this procedure, the patient wears a rigid head frame. An MRI or CT scan creates pictures of the tumor’s exact location. The doctor uses a computer to decide on the dose of radiation needed, as well as the sizes and angles of the radiation beams. The therapy may be given during a single visit or over several visits.

3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy – A computer creates a 3-dimensional image of the tumor and nearby brain tissue. The doctor aims multiple radiation beams to the exact shape of the tumor. The precise focus of the radiation beams protects normal brain tissue.

Proton beam radiation therapy – The source of radiation is protons rather than x-rays. The doctor aims the proton beams at the tumor. Protons can pass through healthy tissue without damaging it.

These are some questions a person may want to ask the doctor before having radiation therapy:

*Why do I need this treatment?
*When will the treatments begin? When will they end?
*How will I feel during therapy? Are there side effects?
*What can I do to take care of myself during therapy?
*How will we know if the radiation is working?
*Will I be able to continue my normal activities during treatment?

Less invasive brain tumor treatments
include options such as laser ablation.

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(From above banking your brain tumor tissue) Brain Tumor Tissue Banking

Various cutting-edge experimental personalized medicines under investigation today could be an important step towards a future when cancer cures may be achieved. Tumor tissue displays dozens of biomarkers.  The particular biomarkers form a profile or “fingerprint”.

Just as each person’s fingerprints are unique, the biomarker profile of each patient’s cancer is different.  So, in the future, depending on the type of cancer and how science advances, a patient’s tumor tissue may play a role in helping fight a patient’s cancer IF and ONLY IF it is saved at the time of surgery, and stored for this use.

We suggest that if you are having surgery to remove your brain tumor, that you consider banking your brain tumor tissue.  This process is similar to cord blood banking and may be used in the future, depending on the person’s particular condition and the state of developing science, to create personalized vaccine therapies, conduct chemotherapy sensitivity testing, or conduct genetic testing.

Many new cutting-edge treatments are currently being studied, including vaccines to prevent the reoccurence of brain tumors, and other personalized therapies.  Many of these experimental treatments and technologies are ONLY available if you save your tumor tissue.

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