Treatment can involve surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Brain tumors are best treated by a team that includes:
Other health care providers, such as neurologists and social workers
Early treatment often improves the chance of a good outcome. Treatment depends on the size and type of tumor and your general health. Goals of treatment may be to cure the tumor, relieve symptoms, and improve brain function or comfort.
Surgery is often needed for most primary brain tumors. Some tumors may be completely removed. Those that are deep inside the brain or that enter brain tissue may be debulked instead of removed. Debulking is a procedure to reduce the tumor's size.
Tumors can be hard to remove completely by surgery alone. This is because the tumor invades surrounding brain tissue much like roots from a plant spread through soil. When the tumor cannot be removed, surgery may still help reduce pressure and relieve symptoms.
Chemotherapy may be used with surgery or radiation treatment.
Other medicines used to treat primary brain tumors in children may include:
Medicines to reduce brain swelling and pressure
Anticonvulsants to reduce seizures
Comfort measures, safety measures, physical therapy, and occupational therapy may be needed to improve quality of life. Counseling, support groups, and similar measures can help people cope with the disorder.
You may consider enrolling in a clinical trial after talking with your treatment team.
Legal advice may be helpful for creating advance directives such as a power of attorney.
Permanent, worsening, and severe loss of brain function
Return of tumor growth
Side effects of medications, including chemotherapy
Side effects of radiation treatments
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you develop any new, persistent headaches or other symptoms of a brain tumor.
Call your provider or go to the emergency room if you start having seizures, or suddenly develop stupor (reduced alertness), vision changes, or speech changes.
Dorsey JF, Hollander AB, Alonso-Basanta M, et al. Cancer of the central nervous system. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 66.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines): Central nervous system cancers. Version 2.2013. Available at: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/cns.pdf. Accessed November 11, 2013.
Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.