Brain Tumor Treatment

Beaumont doctors from all cancer disciplines will work together to provide you with the most advanced cancer treatment options. Our brain and spinal cancer specialists use state-of-the-art neuro imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. Beaumont's Gamma Knife radiosurgery program for brain tumors is one of the nation's largest, and surgeons at Beaumont offer advanced spinal radiosurgery treatments.

Specific treatment for brain tumors will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • type, location, and size of the tumor
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include (alone or in combination):

  • surgery - surgery is usually the first step in the treatment of brain tumors. The goal is to remove as much of the tumor as possible while maintaining neurological function. A biopsy is also done to examine the types of cells the tumor is made of for a diagnosis. This is frequently done if the tumor is in an area with sensitive structures around it that may be injured during removal.
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • steroids (to treat and prevent swelling especially in the brain)
  • anti-seizure medication (to treat and prevent seizures associated with intracranial pressure)
  • placement of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt (also called a VP shunt.) This is a tube that is placed into the fluid filled spaces of the brain called ventricles. The other end of the tube is placed into the abdomen to help drain excess fluid that can build up in the brain and cause an increase in pressure in the brain.
  • bone marrow transplantation
  • supportive care (to minimize the side effects of the tumor or treatment)
  • rehabilitation (to regain lost motor skills and muscle strength; speech, physical, and occupational therapists may be involved in the healthcare team)
  • antibiotics (to treat and prevent infections)
  • continuous follow-up care (to manage disease, detect recurrence of the tumor, and to manage late effects of treatment)

Newer therapies that may be used to treat brain cancer include the following:

  • stereotactic radiosurgery - a new technique that focuses high doses of radiation at the tumor site, while sparing the surrounding normal tissue, with the use of photon beams from a linear accelerator or cobalt x-rays.
  • gene therapy - a special gene is added to a virus that is injected into the brain tumor. An antivirus drug is then given which kills the cancer cells that have been infected with the altered virus.
  • chemotherapy wafers - wafers containing a cancer-killing drug, BCNU, is inserted directly into the brain tumor during surgery.

Long-term outlook for a person with a brain tumor

Prognosis greatly depends on all of the following:

  • type of tumor
  • extent of the disease
  • size and location of the tumor
  • presence or absence of metastasis
  • the tumor's response to therapy
  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • your tolerance of specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • new developments in treatment

As with any cancer, prognosis and long-term survival can vary greatly from individual to individual. Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are important for the best prognosis. Continuous follow-up care is essential for a person diagnosed with a brain tumor. Side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, as well as second malignancies, can occur in survivors of brain tumors.

Rehabilitation for lost motor skill and muscle strength may be required for an extended amount of time. Speech therapists and physical and occupational therapists may be involved in some form of rehabilitation. More research is needed to improve treatment, decrease side effects of the treatment for this disease, and develop a cure. New methods are continually being discovered to improve treatment and to decrease side effects.

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