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. How you are treated depends on the size and type of tumor and your general health. The 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, 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 medications used to treat primary brain tumors in children may include:
Corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, to reduce brain swelling
Medicines such as urea or mannitol to reduce brain swelling and pressure
Anticonvulsants, such as evetiracetam (Keppra), to reduce seizures
Antacids or histamine blockers to control stress ulcers
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 advanced 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
Calling your health care provider
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.
Buckner JC, Brown PD, O'Neill BP, Meyer FB, Wetmore CJ, Uhm JH. Central nervous system tumors. Mayo Clin Proc. 2007;82(10):1271-1286.
Stupp R, Roila F; ESMO Guidelines Working Group. Malignant glioma: ESMO clinical recommendations for diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. Ann Oncol. 2009;20 Suppl 4:126-128.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Central nervous system cancers. V.2.2009.
Wen PY, Kesari S. Malignant gliomas in adults. N Engl J Med. 2008 Jul 31;359(5):492-507.
Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles and Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.