Brain cancer treatment
What is the treatment for brain cancer?
A treatment plan is individualized for each brain cancer patient. The treatment plan is constructed by the doctors who specialize in brain cancer, and treatments vary widely depending on the cancer type, brain location, tumor size, patient age, and patient's general health status. A major part of the plan is also determined by the patient's wishes. Patients should discuss treatment options with their health-care providers.
Surgery, radiation therapy. and chemotherapy are the major treatment categories for most brain cancers. Individual treatment plans often include a combination of these treatments. Surgical therapy attempts to remove all of the tumor cells by cutting the tumor away from normal brain tissue. This surgery is often termed invasive surgery to distinguish it from noninvasive radiosurgery or radiation therapy described below.
Radiation therapy attempts to destroy tumor cells by using high-energy radiation focused onto the tumor to destroy the tumor cells' ability to function and replicate. Radiosurgery is a nonsurgical procedure that delivers a single high dose of precisely targeted radiation using highly focused gamma-ray or X-ray beams that converge on the specific area or areas of the brain where the tumor or other abnormality is located, minimizing the amount of radiation to healthy brain tissue. Equipment used to do radiosurgery varies in its radiation source; a gamma knife uses focused gamma rays, and a linear accelerator uses photons, while heavy-charged particle radiosurgery uses a proton beam.
Chemotherapy attempts to
destroy tumor cells using chemicals (drugs) that are designed to destroy specific types of cancer cells. There are many chemical agents used; specific drug therapies are numerous, and each regimen is usually designed for the specific type of brain cancer and individualized for each patient. For example, bevacizumab (Avastin) is a drug approved for treatment of glioblastomas (glioblastoma multiforme). Chemotherapy can be administered intrathecally (by a spinal tap or through a surgically placed permanent reservoir under the scalp attached through a sterile tubing placed into the fluid-containing chambers in the brain), by IV administration, and biodegradable chemically impregnated polymers. All treatments attempt to spare normal brain cells.
Other treatment options may include hyperthermia (heat treatments), immunotherapy (immune cells directed to kill certain cancer cell types), or steroids to reduce inflammation and brain swelling. These may be added on to other treatment plans.
Clinical trials (treatment plans designed by scientists and physicians to try new chemicals or treatment methods on patients) can be another way for patients to obtain treatment specifically for their cancer cell type. Clinical trials are part of the research efforts to produce better treatments for all disease types. Stem cell treatments for brain and brain stem cancers and other conditions may be available, because research with patients is ongoing using these potential therapies. The best treatment for brain cancer is designed by the team of cancer specialists in conjunction with the wishes of the patient.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/24/2014