Brain Cancer

Treatment for brain cancer should be individualized for each patient. Treatment plans are based on the patient’s age and general health status as well as the size, location, type, and grade of the tumor. In most cases of brain cancer, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are the main types of treatment. Often, more than one treatment type is used. The treatment types are further described below.

The patient, family, and friends will have many questions about the tumor, the treatment, how treatment will affect the person, and the person’s long-term outlook (prognosis). Members of the person’s health-care team are the best source of this information. Don’t hesitate to ask them any questions.

Self-Care for Brain Cancer

The person’s health-care provider and the physician team in charge of their case should discuss details about home care with both the patient and family members.

  • Home care usually includes supportive measures needed according to the patient’s symptoms. For example, walkers may be given for those patients who have gait or minor balance problems.
  • If a person has mental-status changes, a care plan should be directed to the patient’s individual needs. For example, a caregiver may be assigned to administer the patient’s daily medications.

If the patient’s prognosis is poor, it is appropriate to discuss options of hospicecare and advance directives with the doctors.

  • Home hospice care is a way of providing pain and symptom relief, as well as emotional and spiritual support for the patient and the family, at home rather than in the hospital. It involves a multidisciplinary approach that may include a physician or other care provider, nurses, a pharmacist, aides, a social worker, a spiritual caregiver, and counselors.
  • Advance directives and living wills are legal documents that spell out specifically which treatments are to be given and which are to be withheld. For example, a person with advanced brain cancer may not want to be put on a ventilator (breathing machine) if he or she stops breathing. Patients have the right to make these decisions for themselves as long as they remain mentally competent. They may also wish to designate someone to make such decisions for them should they become unable to do so later. Such a document is called a durable power of attorney for health-care decisions. Directives should be available to health-care personnel, especially when any emergent change in the person’s condition occurs, otherwise a person’s care directives may not be done.
  • Home remedies claiming cures for brain cancer can be found on the Internet; they range from taking folic acid supplements to taking antioxidants and herbal substances. There is little or no data to support these claims; people are urged to discuss these treatments, before trying them, with their doctors.

What Are Surgical Treatment Plans for Brain Cancer?

  • The treatment protocols vary widely according to the location of the tumor, its size, grade, and type, the patient’s age, and any additional medical problems that the person may have.
  • The most widely used treatments are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. As mentioned in some cases, more than one of these treatment types is used.

Most people with a brain tumor undergo surgery. (Craniotomy is the term used to refer to the surgical opening of the skull.)

  • The purposes of surgery are to confirm that the abnormality seen on the brain scan is indeed a tumor, to assign a grade to the tumor, and to remove the tumor. If the tumor cannot be removed completely, the surgeon will at least take a sample of the tumor to identify its type and grade.
  • In some cases, mostly in benign tumors, the disease can be completely cured by surgical removal of the tumor. A neurosurgeon will attempt to remove the tumor when possible.

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