Just like any other tumor or cancer, considerations for treatment of a brain tumor include the type of tumor, the location of the tumor, its size, and also the person’s age and his overall health condition. The duration and schedules of treatment varies between children and adults.
There are three types of standard treatment for brain tumor – surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Basing it on the severity or degree of the tumor, one or a combination of these treatments may be used. Initially, a biopsy is done to help doctors decide which type of treatment may be applied to the patient.
Specialists handling the treatment for brain cancer or tumor are radiation oncologists, neurosurgeons, and medical oncologists, among others. Treatment starts by giving steroids to patients to reduce and alleviate swelling. Depending on the side effects that may be present, some may be given anti-epileptic seizure drugs.
- Surgery. With brain surgery, the brain tumors is physically removed in the brain by opening the skull. Called craniotomy, the tumor is removed by the surgeon who decides whether the whole tumor may be removed or part of it. By studying the location of the tumor, the surgeon will consider whether complete removal is possible without causing injury to brain tissues. If a part of the tumor remains, this can be treated by other methods of treatment. Technology also allows surgeons to map the brain and look for possible pathways around the tumor to perform the necessary extraction, either for biopsy or the removal itself.
- Radiation therapy. Also called radiotherapy, this procedure destroys cancer cells by allowing high-powered rays in the tumor area. This can be used without the need for the first surgery procedure, or to totally destroy the cancer cells that remained from the first surgical removal. Radiotherapy has two methods—external radiation and stereostatic radiosurgery. External radiation is the radiation therapy aimed at the area of the tumor. The usual duration for this treatment is five days. Stereostatic radiosurgery is a one-time session with your doctor where a single high dose of radiation is precisely directed to the tumor. Because the treatment is limited and focused on the tumor alone, there is a low risk of damaging the surrounding brain tissues.
- Chemotherapy. This is an injection of medicine or a combination of medicines to the cerebrospinal fluid in order to destroy and prevent the tumor cells from spreading. This is normally a two to three year treatment program and is normally a three-fold process. While there may be relapses, brain tumors may also be successfully treated in this way.
There are local and national efforts of medicine practitioners to try and find a more efficient cure for brain tumors and other cancers. Children are also not spared from these types of illnesses. If you or a loved one is going through this ordeal, you can learn more about different types of brain tumor (e.g. glioblastoma multiforme, medulloblastoma foundation) or alternative treatments for brain tumors by visiting your local health center. Also be sure to seek the support and help of cancer support groups during this difficult time.