The treatment for brain tumors depends on a number of factors including the location, type, and size of the tumor as well as the patient’s age and general health. Treatment methods and schedules vary for children and adults.
The brain tumor patients have to be treated with brain tumor surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The doctors also are researching for a vaccine, for treating a recurrent cancer of the central nervous system that occurs primarily in the brain, called as glioma.
Depending on your needs, various methods can be used. The ideal team includes medical oncologists, neurosurgeons, nurses, radiation oncologists, a dietitian, and a social worker, who work together to provide the best possible care.
Before treatment begins, many of the patients are given steroids, drugs that relieve swelling or edema. You may receive anticonvulsant medications to prevent or control seizures.
If hydrocephalus is present, you might need a shunt to drain cerebrospinal fluid. A shunt is a long, thin tube situated in a ventricle of the brain and then threaded under the skin to another part of the body, usually the abdomen. It works like a drain-pipe. Excess fluid is carried away from the brain and is then absorbed in the abdomen. In some cases, the fluid is drained directly into the heart.
Surgery is the most opted treatment for most brain tumors. To remove a brain tumor, a neurosurgeon makes a cut in the skull. This surgery is called a craniotomy. Whenever it is possible, the surgeon attempts to remove the entire tumor.
If the tumor cannot be completely removed without damaging vital brain tissue, then your doctor may remove as much of the tumor as possible. Partial removal helps to relieve symptoms by reducing the pressure on the brain and lessens the amount of tumor to be treated by radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Some tumors can not be removed. In such cases, the doctor might opt only for a biopsy. A tiny piece of the tumor is removed so that a pathologist can examine it under a microscope to determine the type of cells it contains. This helps your doctor decide which treatment to do.
Sometimes, a biopsy is done with the help of a needle. Doctors use a special head frame (like a halo) and CT scans or MRI to find out the exact location of the tumor. The surgeon makes a small hole in the skull and then guides a needle to where the tumor is located. Using this technique for a biopsy or for treatment is called stereotaxis.
Other advanced techniques during surgery includes brain mapping to find functional pathways beside the tumors, endoscopy to perform biopsies as well as open spinal fluid pathways through a small scope and advanced frameless stereotaxic computer assisted tumor resections. Intraoperative MRI is also available to help maximize the tumor removal.
Radiation therapy is also called as radiotherapy. It is the use of high-powered rays to destroy cancer cells and stop them from growing. It is mostly used to destroy tumor tissue that cannot be removed with surgery or to kill cancer cells that might remain after surgery. Radiation therapy also is used when surgery is impossible.
Radiation therapy might be done in two ways. External radiation comes from a huge machine. Generally, external radiation treatments are given for five days a week for a few weeks. The treatment schedule depends on the types and sizes of the tumor and your age. Given the total dose of radiation over an extended time period helps to protect healthy tissue in the area of the tumor.
External radiation may be directed simply to the tumor, the surrounding cells or the entire brain. Some Often radiation is also directed to the spinal cord. When the whole brain is treated, the patient often gets an extra dose of radiation to the area of the tumor. This boost can come from exterior radiation or from an implant.
Radiation can also come from radioactive material fitted directly in the tumor, or implant radiation therapy. Depending on the material used, the implant may be left in the brain for a short period of time or permanently. Implants lose a little radioactivity every day. The patient is admitted in the hospital for several days while the radiation is most active.
The Gamma Knife, or stereotactic radiosurgery, is one of the other ways to treat brain tumors. The Gamma Knife isn’t actually a knife, but a therapy technique of radiation that delivers a single, finely focused, high dose of radiation precisely to its target.
The treatment is completed in just one session. High-energy rays are aimed at the tumor from various angles. In such a way, a high dose of radiation reaches the tumor without damaging other brain tissue.
Chemotherapy is the usage of drugs to kill cancer cells. The doctor might use just one drug or a combination, mostly giving the drugs orally or by injection into a blood vessel or muscle. Intrathecal chemotherapy entail injecting the drugs into the cerebrospinal fluid.
Chemotherapy is normally given in cycles. A treatment period is followed up by a recovery period, then another treatment period and so on. Mostly patients don’t need to stay in the hospital for treatment and most drugs can be given in the doctor’s clinic.
However, depending on the drugs prescribed, the way they are given and the patient’s general health, a short hospital stay may be needed.
Advances in chemotherapy includes direct placement into the tumor cavity using a new technique known as convection enhanced delivery.