Before even considering an appropriate treatment, it is important for your doctor to determine the type, size and degree of malignancy of the cancer in your brain. He will also consider other organs affected by the tumor in case of a metastatic brain cancer. In addition, your age and general health status are also important factors. Having this information, a group of doctors will decide which therapies are most effective to combat the tumor.
In case of a secondary brain cancer, your doctor will first take care of the primary cancer before he performs surgery on your brain. Metastatic brain cancer will be treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and/or immunotherapy. If the cancer is primitive, that is, it grows directly from the brain tissue, your physician will perform a surgery, provided that the tumor is accessible. Most of the times, the surgery will be followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy and/or immunotherapy.
The three main methods of treatment of brain cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which can be used alone or in combination. Always ask your doctor the most effective treatments for your type of cancer, and what you can do to increase your survival chance. Also, ask about possible side effects of the treatment; the more you know, the more you’ll be able to prevent or reduce these adverse effects, and improve your life.
Brain cancer surgery
Surgical intervention is often included in the treatment of brain cancer. During the surgery, a well-trained surgeon opens your skull (craniotomy) to remove part or the entire tumor. In some cases, however, surgery is not possible in the treatment of brain cancer; other methods such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy will be used.
This systematic treatment involves the use of drugs to shrink or eliminate the tumor. Usually, chemotherapy drugs work by destroying cancerous cells which multiply hierarchically and some healthy cells which grow rapidly. Chemotherapy drugs work by acting on DNA in cells to block their reproduction. However, chemotherapy tends to damage the bone marrow and weaken the immune system, the natural defense of the organism which fights against infections and all pathogenic attacks. This lead to a variety of side effects in some patients, which can include:
- temporary hair loss
- mouth sores.
Unlike chemotherapy which attacks all cells of the body, radiotherapy acts especially on the tumor; it involves the use of radiation to destroy cancer cells in a specific area of the body by blocking their ability to multiply. Radiation therapy is designed to destroy all tumor cells of the treated area while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue. You may receive external beam radiotherapy or implanted radiotherapy. If your oncologist believes it will help, he can recommend both methods.
Although radiation therapy is less toxic than chemotherapy, it can cause some side effects in certain patients:
- hair loss
- weight loss
- Skin reaction
- hearing problem
- tearing and/or eye redness
- cataracts (rare)
- Dull headache.
Brain cancer is often associated with seizures. Your doctor may recommend you to take anti-epileptic medications if he realizes that you are prone to seizure attack.