Different Kinds of Brain Cancer Treatments
Overgrowth of cells that form masses called tumors is brain cancer. There is a 1% chance that a person will develop a malignant tumor of the brain or spinal cord in their entire life. Keep on reading to know about the different brain tumor cancer treatments.
What Are the Treatments for Brain Cancer?
The appropriate course of treatment should be determined first. So how is brain cancer treated? Treatments vary depending on the size, location, stage of cancer, and overall health of the patient. There are different brain tumor cancer treatments available and being used by doctors nowadays. Brain tumors may be treated with the following:
Staging is used to describe the size of cancer and how far it has spread beyond the brain. Results from MRI, CT Scans, and other tests will help determine the stage of cancer. Brain tumors are graded on a scale of 1 to 4, based on how quickly it grows and invade the other tissues. Grade 1 and 2 are slow-growing and called low-grade tumors, while grade 4 is the fastest-growing one.
- Grade 1 The tumor is growing slowly and rarely spreads into other parts of the body. It is possible to remove the tumor with surgery completely.
- Grade 2 In this grade, the tumor will grow slowly but may spread to other parts or reoccur.
- Grade 3 The tumor is more likely to grow quickly in the 3rd grade. It will also look different from normal cells and may spread into nearby tissues.
- Grade 4 In this grade of tumor, the growth of the tumor will increase rapidly and spread very quickly in the other tissues and organs, while the tumor cells will completely look different from the normal cells.
The goal of this treatment for brain cancer is to enhance the quality of life and allow patients to maintain their independence. This type of treatment provides support to the patients to live their life as fully and as comfortably as possible even if they have terminal illnesses such as brain cancer. Anyone with cancer who is experiencing physical and emotional discomfort can ask for palliative care.
Palliative care can reduce cancer symptoms such as pain, fatigue, nausea, and constipation. It can also decrease the side effects of combined cancer treatments. In some scenarios, if cancer cannot be cured, palliative treatments may be able to slow down the growth or spread of cancer.
This treatment can also help if the patient is experiencing anxiety or depression due to the cancer diagnosis. Counseling and other support services can help tackle many worries, fears, or conflicting emotions. Palliative care can be started at any stage of cancer after the diagnosis.
The most often used treatment doctors use in cancer patients is surgery. The brain tumor must be removed by an experienced neurosurgeon safely without impacting brain function. The surgery will depend on the size, location, and grade of the brain tumor, but there are certain tumor types that don’t need surgery. It is usually combined with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Side effects such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, and blurred vision might occur after the surgery.
Radiation therapy treatment for brain tumors is usually used after a biopsy or following the surgery of removing the tumor to help destroy the brain tumor cells and relieve symptoms caused by the tumor. This kind of therapy allows the doctors to raise the dosage and specifically target radiation to the brain tumor while lessening damage to healthy brain tissues.
Patients with high-grade brain cancer commonly receive chemotherapy as their treatment. It may be executed with or without other brain cancer treatments. There are two types of chemotherapy, and these are:
- Systemic chemotherapy for brain cancer uses drugs to enter the bloodstream and reach certain areas throughout the body. This can be administered orally in pill form or injected through a vein.
- Local chemotherapy for brain cancer goes directly to the area of the brain tumor after the removal of it. Once the brain tumor is removed, a chemotherapy drug in a biodegradable wafer is placed in the space left by the tumor. The wafer will slowly release the drug for a few days. This will help to reduce the side effects and increase the drug concentration at the tumor site.
Targeted therapy treatment is designed to look for unique specific cancer cells. The drugs used for this therapy aim to directly attack the cell and help other brain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery, to work better.
This treatment targets specific abnormalities in brain tumor cells that involve the growth of the tumor. This is a treatment option for patients with a tumor recurrence prior to their previous brain cancer treatments.
The treatment team consists of different health professionals that will help the patient throughout brain cancer treatment. The team roster depends on the treatment that the patient needs. It usually consists of professionals such as:
- General Practitioner – They look after the patient’s general health and work with the specialists to coordinate the treatment.
- Neurologist – They diagnose and treat diseases of the brain and nervous system.
- Neurosurgeon – They are the ones who use surgery to treat brain diseases and injuries.
- Cancer Nurses – These nurses assist with the treatment, provide information, and support the patient all throughout the treatment.
- Medical Oncologist – They prescribe and coordinate the course of chemotherapy.
- Radiation Oncologist – They prescribe and coordinate radiation therapy treatment for brain tumors.
- Other Allied Health Professionals – This area includes social workers, pharmacists, and counselors.
A Closer Look: What Is Brain Cancer?
Brain cancer is a malignant tumor due to the cluster of abnormal cells that grow out of control in the brain. A primary brain tumor starts in the brain and doesn’t spread to other parts of the body, while a secondary brain tumor is caused by cancer cells from other parts of the body. There are two main types of brain tumor:
- Benign. Benign tumors are non-cancerous and don’t spread to other parts of the body. These types of tumors are common, and once removed, they usually don’t grow back.
- Malignant. Malignant tumors are cancerous and invade healthy cells. They usually grow and spread aggressively, and they can be a problem if not treated immediately.
Brain Cancer Symptoms
Brain cancer symptoms depend on the location of the tumor and its size. Common symptoms of brain cancer include:
- Lack of coordination
- Difficulty walking
- Lack of balance
- Vision problems
- Speech problems
- Muscle twitching
- Muscle jerking
- Change in personality
- Unusual eye movements
- Unexplained passing out
- Local Symptoms – Swelling, lumps, hemorrhaging, pain from the location of the tumor
- Metastatic Symptoms – Enlarged lymph nodes, liver (hepatomegaly), and spleen (splenomegaly)
- Systematic Symptoms – Excessive sweating at night time, weight loss, poor appetite, fatigue, anemia
Risk Factors of Brain Cancer
The leading cause of brain cancer is still unknown, but there are genetic conditions and environmental risk factors that may contribute to the growth of brain cancer. It is important to know that the risk factors of brain cancer only affect the chance of developing brain cancer over a lifetime. Here are certain factors that may increase the risk of brain tumors:
Gender can be one of the risk factors that may increase the risk of having brain cancer. Certain types of cancers are twice as likely to develop in females than in males, while there are also types of cancers like medulloblastomas which are more frequently found in males than females.
Tumors may occur at any age, but the chance of having brain cancer when an individual reaches the age of 65 and older is higher. The frequency of cancer increases with age. However, this factor varies depending on the location of the tumor and cell type.
Compromised Immune System
Individuals who have an impaired immune system are weaker than the ordinary person. Their immune system’s defenses are low, affecting the ability to fight off diseases and infections. In some instances, immunocompromised individuals have a higher risk of developing lymphomas in the brain.
Just like any cancer, family history may affect the chance of developing diseases. There are brain cancers that may be inherited from a family with a history of brain tumors like the Von Hippel-Lindau disease, Neurofibromatosis (NF1 and NF2), and Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. However, the evidence that brain cancer runs in families is little.
Working with different industrial chemicals or solvents and being exposed to this is one of the risks in developing brain cancer. Evidence has found that working in oil refining, rubber manufacturing, and drug manufacturing can higher the incidence of certain types of brain tumors.
Previous Radiation Treatment
If an individual has been exposed to or received radiation therapy treatment at a young age, the likelihood of developing brain cancer may increase.
What Is Brain Cancer Metastasis?
A secondary brain tumor is caused by cancer cells from other parts of the body that are much more common than primary brain tumors. Due to the individuals who do better with cancer treatment and live longer, these tumors are becoming increasingly more common, providing original cancer the chance to spread into the brain.
Few cancers that frequently spread to the brain are breast, lung, colon, melanoma, kidney, thyroid, and uterine. Lung cancer is the most common form of brain metastasis. The brain metastasizing is assessed through the TNM staging system that stands for Tumor, Node, and Metastasized (spread). In some scenarios, patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer often require a brain scan.
Brain Cancer Diagnosis
Once the doctor has suspected a brain tumor, they will check how different parts of the brain function by observing the reflexes, balance and coordination, muscle strength, ability to feel pin-pricks, and distinguishing hot and cold. The main tests that are used for brain cancer diagnosis are:
- CT Scan – Computerized Tomography Scan uses x-rays to take multiple photos of the internal parts of the body.
- MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan uses a computer and a powerful magnet to take cross-sectional photos of the body
- MRS – Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy scan focuses on finding changes in the brain’s chemical makeup and is usually done at the same time as an MRI.
- PET Scan – Positron Emission Tomography scan injects a small amount of a radioactive solution to show up cancer cells because the absorption of the solution is faster than the normal cells.
- SPECT – Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography scan captures three-dimensional images of blood flow in the brain. Areas with higher blood flow will be brighter on the scan, such as the tumor.
- Lumbar Puncture – Also known as a spinal tap, uses a needle to gather cerebrospinal fluid that will be sent to a laboratory to test for cancer cells.
Discuss Brain Cancer Treatment Options With Us Today
Early detection and treatment of brain cancer will reduce the risk of metastatic brain tumors. If you have a family member who exhibits signs and symptoms of a brain tumor, feel free to reach out to All American Hospice today.