Brain cancers are usually treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy (anticancer medications), and radiation as well as medications that control symptoms.
High doses of steroids are frequently used any time or around the time of radiation to reduce any swelling caused by the tumour. These will often relieve some or all of the symptoms but have no effect on the tumour itself. Anticonvulsant medications may be used to prevent seizures.
Surgery is done to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Some brain cancers are located in areas that surgeons can't reach without damaging other important portions of the brain. It's often better not to operate in those cases. Even when surgery can't completely remove all of the cancer, it can make the tumour smaller, which helps relieve some of the symptoms and can make other treatments more effective.
Radiation and chemotherapy are usually started after surgery. They often don't cure brain cancer, but can keep the tumour under control for months.
If you have seizures from the brain tumour, your doctor may prescribe antiseizure medications as well.
Treatment of metastatic cancers (those that have spread) largely depends on the location where they started. For example, a lung cancer that metastasized to the brain would be treated the same way as other lung cancers. The part of the cancer that has spread to the brain may be treated by radiation. If the cancer has metastasized but is limited to one area in the brain, it is sometimes removed surgically.
Advances in technology are providing new treatment options such as lasers and ultrasound for removing tumours. An alternative to surgery is a technique called Gamma knife stereotactic radiosurgery, where radiation beams are accurately focused directly on the tumour. These newer techniques may leave fewer cancer cells behind and minimize the damage to the healthy brain tissue around the tumour, resulting in fewer neurological complications.
It is usually not possible to get rid of all the brain cancer cells. If even a few are left behind, the cancer can grow back.
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