What is Brain Cancer
A brain tumor occurs when abnormal cells form within the brain. There are two main types of tumors. Cancerous (malignant) tumors and benign (non-cancerous) tumors. Cancerous tumors can be divided into primary tumors, which start within the brain, and secondary tumors, which most commonly have spread from tumors located outside the brain, known as brain metastasis tumors. All types of brain tumors may produce symptoms that vary depending on the part of the brain involved. These symptoms may include headaches, seizures, problems with vision, vomiting, and mental changes.
The most common types of primary tumors in adults are meningiomas (usually benign) and astrocytomas such as glioblastomas. In children, the most common type is a malignant medulloblastoma. Diagnosis is usually by medical examination along with computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The result is then often confirmed by a biopsy. Based on the findings, the tumors are divided into different grades of severity.
GBM Treatment Options
Resection surgery: The primary and most desired course of action described in the medical literature is surgical removal (resection) via craniotomy. Minimally invasive techniques are becoming the dominant trend in neurosurgical oncology. The main objective of surgery is to remove as many tumor cells as possible, with complete removal being the best outcome and cytoreduction (“debulking”) of the tumor otherwise. In some cases, access to the tumor is impossible and impedes or prohibits surgery.
Radiation therapy: After surgery, radiotherapy is the mainstay of treatment. The goal of radiation therapy is to kill tumor cells while leaving normal brain tissue unharmed. In standard external beam radiation therapy, multiple treatments of standard-dose “fractions” of radiation are applied to the brain. This process is repeated for a total of 10 to 30 treatments, depending on the type of tumor. This additional treatment provides some patients with improved outcomes and longer survival rates.
Radiosurgery is a treatment method that uses computerized calculations to focus radiation at the site of the tumor while minimizing the radiation dose to the surrounding brain. Radiosurgery may be an adjunct to other treatments, or it may represent the primary treatment technique for some tumors. Forms used include stereotactic radiosurgery, such as Gamma knife, Cyberknife or Novalis radiosurgery
Chemotherapy: Patients undergoing chemotherapy are administered drugs designed to kill tumor cells. Although chemotherapy may improve overall survival in patients with the most malignant primary brain tumors, it does so in only about 20 percent of patients. Chemotherapy is often used in young children instead of radiation, as radiation may have negative effects on the developing brain. The decision to prescribe this treatment is based on a patient’s overall health, type of tumor, and extent of cancer. The toxicity and many side effects of the drugs, and the uncertain outcome of chemotherapy in brain tumors put this treatment further down the line of treatment options with surgery and radiation therapy preferred.
Disclaimer: The content provided on this page is for educational purposes and should not be considered as medical instruction or medical advice.