Brain Cancer (cont.)

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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 the 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. Some brain cancers are termed inoperable by surgeons because attempting to remove the cancer may cause further brain damage or death. However, a brain cancer termed inoperable by one surgeon may be considered operable by another surgeon. Patients with a diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor should consider seeking a second opinion before surgical treatment is abandoned.

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 (into the cerebrospinal fluid 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.

Are there any home remedies for brain cancer?

There are many home remedies that make claims of being effective in treating brain cancer (and many other cancers). Most are nutrition or supplements like herbs, fish oils, chokeberry, and many others. Most have little or no research data to support their claims. Before using such compounds, discuss their use with your doctors.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/4/2015

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