Treatment depends on the type and grade of the cancer, where it is located, its size, and the patient’s age and health. The plan for treatment may involve different types of treatment called a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors:
- The size, type, and grade of the tumor
- Whether the tumor puts pressure on vital parts of the brain
- If the tumor has spread to other parts of the CNS or body
- Side effects
- The patient’s preferences and overall health
Treatment options include those described below, such as surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted and combined therapies.
1. Surgery is usually the first segment of treatment. For grade 1 tumors, a surgery may suffice as it is possible to remove the tumor. Otherwise, it is also possible to reduce the size of the tumor and ease symptoms.
2. Radiation therapy follows surgery to kill any tumor cells that remain in the area. If surgery isn’t an option, radiation therapy alone can also be given.
3. Chemotherapy is used to kill brain cancer cells. It is given orally, via IV, or, less often, in wafers a surgeon places in the brain.
4. Targeted therapy can be used to treat only certain types of brain tumors. These drugs attack specific parts of cancer cells and help stop tumors from growing and spreading.
5. Immunotherapy. Some types of immunotherapy have shown promise in treating brain metastases from lung cancer and melanoma. These include ipilimumab (Yervoy), nivolumab (Opdivo), and pembrolizumab (Keytruda).
6. Combined therapies are also an option.
Brain cancer is not always easy to treat. If treatment does not prove effective, the disease may be called advanced or terminal. Patients who have advanced brain tumor and who are expected to live less than 6 months, may consider a type of palliative care called hospice care. Read more on palliative care for brain cancer.