Types of Brain Tumors
By the National Cancer Institute
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How are adult brain tumors treated?
Different types of treatment are available for patients with adult brain tumor. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. Before starting treatment, patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. To learn more about clinical trials, call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site. Choosing the most appropriate cancer treatment is a decision that ideally involves the patient, family, and health care team.
Three types of standard treatment are used
Surgery is used, when possible, to treat adult brain tumor.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. International radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). A dissolving wafer may be used to deliver an anticancer drug directly into the brain tumor site after the tumor has been removed by surgery. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
Other types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials
New methods of delivering radiation therapy
- Radiosensitizers: Drugs that make tumor cells more sensitive to radiation. Combining radiation with radiosensitizers may kill more tumor cells.
- Hyperfractionation: Radiation therapy given in smaller-than-usual doses two or three times a day instead of once a day.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery: A radiation therapy technique that delivers radiation directly to the tumor with less damage to healthy tissue. The doctor uses a CT scan or MRI to find the exact location of the tumor. A rigid head frame is attached to the skull and high-dose radiation is directed to the tumor through openings in the head frame, reducing the amount of radiation given to normal brain tissue. This procedure does not involve surgery. This is also called stereotaxic radiosurgery and gamma knife therapy.
Hyperthermia therapy is a treatment in which body tissue is exposed to high temperatures to damage and kill cancer cells or to make cancer cells more sensitive to the effects of radiation and certain anticancer drugs.
Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.
How are metastatic brain tumors treated?
Tumors that have spread to the brain from somewhere else in the body are usually treated with radiation therapy and/or surgery. Chemotherapy may be used if the primary tumor is the kind that responds well to chemotherapy. Clinical trials are under way to study new treatments.
Page Updated: April 2013