A brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in your brain. Many different types of brain tumors exist. Some brain tumors are noncancerous (benign), and some brain tumors are cancerous (malignant). Brain tumors can begin in your brain (primary brain tumors), or cancer can begin in other parts of your body and spread to your brain (secondary, or metastatic, brain tumors). How quickly a brain tumor grows can vary greatly. The growth rate as well as location of a brain tumor determines how it will affect the function of your nervous system. Brain tumor treatment options depend on the type of brain tumor you have, as well as its size and location.
Several types of brain tumors have been identified. These are the most common:
The signs and symptoms of a brain tumor vary greatly and depend on the brain tumor’s size, location and rate of growth. General signs and symptoms may include:
If it’s suspected that you have a brain tumor, your doctor may recommend a number of tests and procedures, including:
Treatment for a brain tumor depends on the type, size and location of the tumor, as well as your overall health and your preferences.
Surgery: If the brain tumor is located in a place that makes it accessible for an operation, your surgeon will work to remove as much of the brain tumor as possible. In some cases, tumors are small and easy to separate from surrounding brain tissue, which makes complete surgical removal possible. In other cases, tumors can’t be separated from surrounding tissue or they’re located near sensitive areas in your brain, making surgery risky. In these situations your doctor removes as much of the tumor as is safe. Even removing a portion of the brain tumor may help reduce your signs and symptoms.
Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to kill tumor cells. Radiation therapy can come from a machine outside your body (external beam radiation), or, in very rare cases, radiation can be placed inside your body close to your brain tumor (brachytherapy). External beam radiation can focus just on the area of your brain where the tumor is located, or it can be applied to your entire brain (whole-brain radiation). Whole-brain radiation is most often used to treat cancer that spreads to the brain from some other part of the body and forms multiple tumors in the brain.
Radiosurgery: Stereotactic radiosurgery is not a form of surgery in the traditional sense. Instead, radiosurgery uses multiple beams of radiation to give a highly focused form of radiation treatment to kill the tumor cells in a very small area. Each beam of radiation isn’t particularly powerful, but the point where all the beams meet — at the brain tumor — receives a very large dose of radiation to kill the tumor cells.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill tumor cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be taken orally in pill form or injected into a vein (intravenously). The chemotherapy drug used most often to treat brain tumors is temozolomide (Temodar), which is taken as a pill. Many other chemotherapy drugs are available and may be used depending on the type of cancer.
San Cristobal Cancer Institute offers a wide array of options to help our patients feel calm and supported during the process of screening, diagnosis and treatment, as well as getting back to life after cancer. Browse our alternatives for patients – including financial aid for those eligible – in our Patient Resources section.
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